Quick Fix: New AR Tool Tries to Take the Trouble out of Troubleshooting

Feb 07 2018

Ever been frustrated trying to troubleshoot tricky technology over a customer service call? Thanks to a new augmented reality tool being developed by Nelson Lin MS’19 and Monica Chan EdD ’17TC, one day soon you could be debugging hardware without even picking up the phone.

Nelson Lin MS’19 and Monica Chan EdD ’17TC will receive funding and mentorship from the Verizon Connected Futures Prototyping and Talent Development program, for their augmented reality tool fixAR. The team was one of only 11 selected this year.
—Photo courtesy of Nelson Lin

Dubbed fixAR, their new app seeks to seamlessly combine virtual schematics with real world objects.

“The plan is to use Apple’s new ARKit to allow an iPhone to scan, diagnose issues, and then populate the screen with instructions on how to fix it,” Lin said. “The camera will augment arrows and pointers over buttons, which will make problems much easier to solve than trying to understand [directions such as] ‘the button on top’ over a phone call.”

The tool could benefit companies and customers alike, with the potential to improve customer service, reduce service calls, and help everyday consumers become more independent in maintaining a myriad of technologies.

Lin and Chan’s brainchild has already received backing from the Verizon Connected Futures Prototyping and Talent Development program, one of only 11 groups selected this year to receive funding and mentorship. In partnership with the NYC Media Lab, Connected Futures seeks to fast-track innovations by supporting cutting-edge prototyping in virtual and augmented reality and artificial intelligence. The competition is open to New York City students and faculty, who are then linked with industry experts.

The pair, who first met as interns at Apple, found their winning inspiration close to home.

“This is a project near and dear to my heart, since I’m essentially the IT department for my entire extended family,” said Lin, a mechanical engineer. “We’re likely going to give our proof of concept in the form of fixing a router when WiFi is down, which is one of the most common issues I’ve had to fix for them.”

As members of the program, the team will participate in weekly meetings with members of Verizon’s Open Innovations Concept Studio, which engages innovators to tackle business challenges in the digital media space, and Verizon Envrmnt, which builds immersive digital experiences. Though they are busy honing fixAR for Demo Day on March 23, they’re already thinking bigger.

Ideally, they hope fixAR will expand into a go-to platform for any number of scenarios, from fixing malfunctioning technology to changing a car filter.