Hologram technology to hit high-tech tractor workshops

Case IH has teamed up with Microsoft for what it describes as an advanced “machinery” project.

The goal is to improve customer service; the idea is to use technology – namely Microsoft’s HoloLens – to instantly “bring” maintenance experts to a Case IH customer or dealer workshop, no matter how far away.

Case IH is currently testing Microsoft’s HoloLens in Austria – on maintenance operations, but also for training.

Thanks to real-time holographic interactions, Case IH says that it’s possible to deliver accurate and qualified diagnostics – essentially hands-free maintenance – from afar.

HoloLens, if Microsoft is to be believed, goes beyond the concept of ‘Augmented Reality’ and introduces ‘Mixed Reality‘.

It displays holograms in the user’s field of vision, with a mapping of the environment that allows the user to “place” holograms in the real world.

The user can also move these holograms – as desired. This is done, says Microsoft, while “respecting the physics” of the environment around the headset.

That’s why, for Case IH, the HoloLens has a possible use in key areas – remote assistance and training.

Case IH

First scenario

In the first scenario, the technician can repair the tractor while communicating with an expert located in a workshop – for example – who can consult all of the technical datasheets and applicable methods and send them to the technician, who can view them on his ‘glasses‘.

The technician can also talk directly with the expert in real-time – via Skype. The main goal is to minimise machine downtime.

Second case (no pun intended!)

In the second case, training is the focus. A person wearing the headset can be remotely connected to multiple people and give a live class – without needing to travel.

“With the HoloLens project, Case IH and Microsoft are working closely to develop the technologies of the future and to set up a new model for remote maintenance,” explained Peter Friis, commercial marketing director (EMEA region) at Case IH.

The testing phase, which is expected to last one year, is already delivering remarkable outcomes – in terms of efficiency and effectiveness.

“We expect to go on in our ‘Digital Transformation’ path, by developing further application scenarios of this and other new technologies,” added Friis.

“Industry 4.0 and Smart Farming are strictly connected and we’re glad to partner with Case IH to reshape the maintenance field,” said Fabio Moioli of Microsoft Italia.

“Mixed reality is an efficiency driver and can improve machine performance, by empowering agriculture companies and farmers all over the world. Agricultural machines are complex and characterised by specific features.

Case IH

“Through Microsoft HoloLens, it’s easier to put in place faster and more aware interventions – to repair the key components hands-free.”

The HoloLens headset contains a computer equipped with an adapted version of Windows 10. Three processors are used.

The first is the main CPU (Central Processing Unit); the second is a GPU (Graphics Processing Unit); and the third – called an HPU (Holographic Processing Unit) – manages the spatial positioning of holograms. It recognises the world around the HoloLens headset.

Case IH

Infrared cameras support the device, to further “map” the environment. Spatial speakers aim to deliver a 360° sound experience, tailored to the real-world positioning of the holograms.

Case IH

Voice command functionality is also available – through Microsoft’s digital assistant – Cortana.

The device weighs 579g; it offers a field of vision of around 30° by 17.5°.