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Virtual reality enters the agricultural arena

Tractor and machinery manufacturers are bringing virtual reality technology into the agricultural arena.

Not for farmers just yet, but it’s easy to see how the technologies providing more easily accessible information to field service technicians and assembly workers in their factories could be translated into on-farm applications.

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Assembly workers at AGCO’s Jackson plant in the USA can access instructions, pictures and video to ensure tractor components are assembled correctly.

Glass is a mini computer and display formed into a pair of spectacles and AGCO is so pleased with the productivity and other improvements seen at its Jackson plant in the USA, where Challenger and Fendt tracked tractors are built, that it is being rolled out to another 6 plants worldwide.

“We found the greatest value from using Glass has been in the assembly and quality areas through hands-free access to the instructions and checklists needed,” says Peggy Gulick, business process director at AGCO.

Productivity increase

“We’ve seen a significant increase in productivity, and our factory employees have reported being much happier doing their jobs,” she adds. AGCO reports a 30% reduction in inspection times, a 25% cut in time spent on complex assemblies and faster training of new hires and employees gaining new skills.

On the assembly line, Glass enables workers to scan a machine’s serial number to instantly bring up a manual, photo, or video they may need to build the tractor and they can use voice commands to take notes for the next shift worker.

Virtual reality with HoloLens

Case IH has also identified the potential of hands-free information technology in training but believes it can also make life easier for dealer technicians carrying out repairs and maintenance on farm equipment.

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In addition to training, Case IH sees Microsoft HoloLens having a role in providing dealer workshop technicians with hands-free access to information while working on a machine.

The CNH Industrial business unit is trialling Microsoft HoloLens visors that generate real-time holographic images in the user’s field of vision.

In a European trial of the technology, dealer maintenance staff can contact Case IH experts for a hands-free consultation while working on a machine and receive technical datasheets or guidance notes that can be viewed on the visor.

Wearable hands-free technologies

The main goal, says Peter Friis, commercial marketing director at Case IH in Europe, is to provide a more efficient maintenance service. “Case IH and Microsoft are working to set up a new model for remote maintenance and the testing phase, which is expected to last a year, is already delivering remarkable outcomes in terms of efficiency and effectiveness,” he says.

Farmers are already adopting digital information technologies such as Fieldmargin that help with inter-team and external communications using hand-held devices. Wearable hands-free technologies could be the next step.