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Engineers are working with Japan Airlines (JAL) on ways to incorporate Microsoft’s HoloLens Mixed Reality hologram technology in order to develop new ways to train new aircraft engine mechanics and flight crews. JAL engineers from Tokyo, led by instructor Takashige Tsuchiya, showed off the airline’s experimental technology recently and received great support.
HoloLens is a Mixed Reality (MR) solution encompassing a wide range of experiences that previously were considered to be only augmented reality or only virtual reality. In mixed reality, people, places, and objects from the physical and virtual worlds merge together in a blended environment.
Takaaki Inoue, director of engineering and quality assurance for Japan Airlines’ U.S. operations, told bizjournals.com that JAL was the first Asian company and airline to develop training tools with the HoloLens technology. Development work began in August 2015, and a prototype was completed this fall.
HoloLens-produced images allow mechanics to experience a strikingly realistic environment using a pair of goggles connected to a nearby computer. A three-dimensional hologram image of a jet engine appears to hang suspended from the ceiling in the room. A HoloLens-wearing student may stand beside it and examine the engine up close and even take it apart, allowing examination of structure and connections to other nearby aircraft systems. According to stocknewsusa.com, Microsoft is also developing a new system which tracks the users’ gaze. The goal of this system is to help those that cannot use a mouse, or to allow the control of a computer to those that have their hands occupied.
HoloLens answers the need for aircrafts which aren’t in use and can be used for training purposes. Typically, textbooks with engine panel diagrams are used to show students the various engine parts.
Inoue explained that JAL mechanics can now see the inside of a Boeing Dreamliner 787 General Electric engine and take it apart without having to park and open up an aircraft. The technology could be a game-changer when it comes to training mechanics to fix the newest planes and engines.
A second program centers around other parts of the 737-800. Both are experimental for now.
“We’re still trying to figure out how to implement this formally into our training system,” Inoue said.
Japan Airlines isn’t the only organization that’s found a creative way to use this new hologram technology. NASA is also using the HoloLens to train astronauts and allow those on the ground to see exactly what the astronauts are seeing in space.