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Augmented reality car owner's manuals

Audi's interactive car manual is convenient, intuitive, and constantly updated.

Do you know where your owner's manual is? Did you read it from cover to cover when you bought your car? Do you read it these days? Chances are, the answer to at least one of those questions is “no”. Maybe that's because you're a whiz at cars, or maybe you feel like you know everything there is to know about your current ride, but for the rest of us, owner's manuals come in awfully handy.

Problem is, there's a lot of information contained in a well-written owner's manual, and finding the answer to a particular question can often be difficult. Wouldn't it be easier if you could just look at a particular element on your car and know everything there was to know about it?

Well, now you can -- at least on the Audi A1 and A3. In a press release from Audi's tech partner, Metaio, the two companies have just unveiled the Audi A3 eKurzinfo Augmented Reality App, an interactive owner's manual, stored right on your smartphone. It's the second augmented reality manual from them, following the recent launch of one for the A1 -- and suggests more will spread across the Audi range.

The apps work very simply: when users have questions about a particular element on their car, they simply crack open the app and aim their camera at the element in question. For example, in the video above, a passenger wants to know about the stop-start button in the middle of the A3's dash. He points his phone's camera at the button, the app recognises the gadget, and a description pops up. He can then tap that description for a bit more information.

A concern about the temp gauge leads to information about what's happening, and then direction to find the coolant top-up point -- a blessing for those who open a bonnet to find a confusing jumble of engineering underneath. What's also interesting is that the app draws its information from the cloud, so the app itself rarely needs to be updated, if ever. Provided you're not scrambling for information in a location without cell service, that's a great thing.

We're predisposed to like this sort of technology. It's convenient, it's intuitive, and it's constantly updated, making it especially useful in the case of recalls and other problems. It's not yet a substitute for a hard copy of the owner's manual, but it could be very soon. The Audi A3 eKurzinfo Augmented Reality App is slated to debut on iOS devices. (No word on when an Android equivalent might appear.) It hasn't arrived on iTunes just yet, but if you're curious, you can check out the similar app for the A1.