We explore the development of an experimental augmented reality application that provides benefits to professional mechanics performing maintenance and repair tasks in a field setting. We developed a prototype that supports military mechanics conducting routine maintenance tasks inside an armored vehicle turret, and evaluated it with a user study. Our prototype uses a tracked headworn display to augment a mechanic's natural view with text, labels, arrows, and animated sequences designed to facilitate task comprehension, localization, and execution. A within-subject controlled user study examined professional military mechanics using our system to complete 18 common tasks under field conditions. These tasks included installing and removing fasteners and indicator lights, and connecting cables, all within the cramped interior of an armored personnel carrier turret. An augmented reality condition was tested against two baseline conditions: the same headworn display providing untracked text and graphics and a fixed flat panel display representing an improved version of the laptop-based documentation currently employed in practice. The augmented reality condition allowed mechanics to locate tasks more quickly than when using either baseline, and in some instances, resulted in less overall head movement. A qualitative survey showed that mechanics found the augmented reality condition intuitive and satisfying for the tested sequence of tasks.
© 2011 IEEE