AR Could Make At-Home Repairs Easier and Less Stressful

Virtual assistants to the rescue

  • Some companies are now offering augmented reality to help repair your gadgets.
  • Dell’s new AR Assistant app guides users through step-by-step, at-home repairs using augmented reality.
  • The software is part of a growing right-to-repair movement that advocates say could reduce waste.
Dell AR assistant


Half the battle of repairing your gadgets might be looking up the instructions at the right moment, but some companies are now offering augmented reality (AR) as a solution. 

Dell's new AR Assistant app uses augmented reality to guide users through step-by-step, at-home repairs or replacements to over 97 different systems in 7 languages. The software is part of a growing right-to-repair movement that could also reduce e-waste. 

"The right to repair movement is an important development with regards to the sustainability in the tech world—many old devices, such as laptops and smartphones, are physically destroyed to prevent sensitive data from being recovered and used for malicious purposes," Russ Ernst, executive VP of products and technology at Blancco, a data erasure and mobile lifecycle solutions provider, told Lifewire via email. "If the movement elongates the life of these devices, less tech will end up in landfills prematurely, which should help lighten the burden on the environment that has been created by the pile-up of hazardous e-waste."

Seeing is Believing

With Dell's AR Assistant, users can see their devices and how to repair them using mixed reality and informational overlays on the machine being repaired, leveraging a smartphone camera. The app also has an augmented clone technology on select systems, which displays a cloned server in any desired space and allows entire 360-degree interaction with a high degree of realism.

"AR is useful for repairing gadgets because the instructions are visual and interactive, providing more detailed guides that consumers can easily follow," Christopher Marquez, VP of enterprise services for Dell Technologies, told Lifewire in an email interview. "When users capture their objects, instructions are placed virtually onto the real-world object guiding consumers."

While looking at any particular device, AR can guide you and provide all the required information in the context of the current activity, Vaclav Vincalek, a tech expert, told Lifewire via email. It gives you all the necessary steps but also alerts you to any potential hazards or pitfalls.

"We have so many devices around us, and access to qualified support is not always available," Vincalek added. "Brands and manufacturers who are able to provide this kind of help to their customers will be increasing the company's own reputation for enhanced customer service."

Marquez pointed out that fixing items yourself can also be more convenient than waiting for technical support. 

"For professionals, it's imperative that technology is fixed immediately, and when we know how to repair our own technology, consumers won't have a bump in their day," he added. "Fixing by yourself provides the convenience of not having to rely on waiting for a technician to schedule a time to come to you, [and instead you] just get the part and proceed."

The Future of Repair

Other personal tech companies are providing the means to repair your own gadgets, although Dell might be among the first to use AR. Apple, for example, has launched its Self Service Repair program, which allows customers who are comfortable doing their own repairs access to Apple parts and tools.

AR products could also be a perfect fit for, say, a college providing training for technical roles, Vincalek said. "Imagine you're learning how to fix engines," he added. "How many physical engines could they bring into the workshop, if you needed to fidget with more engines to understand the differences between them? With AR, [you could] have access to 100 engines. You've got an infinite simulator. Or take the oil and gas sector, where instrumentation engineers who work in the field could get all the practical training they could handle on-site."

Worker in a factory wearing a VR headset

Coolpicture / Getty Images

Organizations are also using AR to perform tasks remotely that would have previously required travel, Jereme Pitts, CEO of Librestream, which provides AR solutions, told Lifewire via email. As one example, an auditor with the multinational grocery retailer, Tesco, completed virtual site visits across three countries in a single day using AR. The audits, which included a product launch in Asia, a packaging approval in Ireland, and a hygiene inspection in Spain, would normally have required two weeks of time and travel.

"We are about to experience a massive employment shift as experts begin to retire from the workforce," Pitts said. "Instead of letting all that knowledge go to waste, we are capturing the knowledge from all workers, whether veteran or new, and layering these "knowledge networks" with industrial tool and equipment designs and blueprints to make remote expert assistance more robust."

Correction 06/29/2022: Changed the company description for Blancco in paragraph 3.

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