Japan Airlines employs Microsoft HoloLens for inspections and training

The airline previously used Google Glass as the visual headset for VR and augmented reality

Japan Airlines employs Microsoft HoloLens for inspections and training
Credit: Kenataro Iemoto via Flickr

Japan Airlines (JAL) has developed new training applications for engine mechanics and flight crew trainees using the Microsoft HoloLens virtual reality headset.

Instead of using videos and printouts of cockpit panel instruments and switches, the flight crews will experience what it is like to be inside the cockpit. And engine mechanics can study and be trained as if they were working on the actual engine or cockpit instead of reading about it in manuals.

This is not JAL's first experience with a visual headset. It employed Google Glass, that much-maligned failed project from Google, at the Honolulu Airport to perform plane inspections and send and receive information to ground crews regarding passengers and baggage.

But this is closer to augmented or mixed reality. It blends 3D holographic content into the physical world, allowing users to interact with both digital content and the world around them. Currently, flight crew trainees studying for promotion use mainly panels that display photos of cockpit instruments and switches to learn operational procedures in the early stages of their training.

Using HoloLens, they will have a detailed hologram in front of their eyes that will display cockpit devices and switches that they can operate themselves, with visual and voice guidance provided through HoloLens.

For mechanics looking for hands-on training, it usually means waiting for an appointment or an available location when a plane is in the hangar for maintenance. The HoloLens, however, makes the engine "look real, in front of you,” a JAL representative told Microsoft. "Mechanics can learn an engine structure by extracting important parts with the simulation," learning names of parts and studying the structure of engines and surrounding systems, regardless of location or time of day.

Eventually, JAL said it would like to bring "the whole aircraft into the classroom." The company wants to use HoloLens to help improve the customer experience, not just focus on the internal purposes such as training.

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