You're sitting at the side of the road on a blazing summer day watching your Audi's dashboard blink like a casino floor. The last thing you want to do is thumb frantically through the grease-covered manual in your glove compartment to try and figure out what's wrong. Instead, you could pull out your smartphone and use the new Audi eKurzinfo augmented reality app to get more information.

The A3 eKurzinfo app won't actually diagnose your car like a wireless, augmented reality OBD2 scanner, but it will help you identify more than 300 elements of the car and quickly pull up how-to and maintenance information on them. It sure sounds better than squinting at a tiny diagram and trying to figure out what component the shooting smoke belongs to.

Developed by augmented reality software company Mataio for Audi AG, the eKurzinfo app uses two- and three-dimensional tracking technology to deliver information about parts of the car. The user simply positions the phone's camera over the part he wants to identify or get more information about. The app includes how-to information and can pull up 3D overlays of maintenance instructions.

The app's usefulness really depends on how comprehensive it is and how well it's executed. You can get a few highlights in the video below, but we'd imagine it would take some use to really decide if it beats the average user manual, or just Googling for car repair and maintenance advice, for that matter. Mataio sees such technology as one day replacing thick, dusty user manuals, providing fast, precise information gathering.

EKurzinfo sounds like an intriguing idea, but sometimes the simplest solutions are the best ones, and sometimes you don't realize it until they're gone. I never had a single problem with the classic metal car key, but my electronic key recently ran out of battery power. I went to check to see what type of battery it needs, only to remember that the car came with a user DVD instead of a paper manual. Electronic keys and "paper free" manuals sound really great – up until you realize that hard metal and books were more versatile, easier to use and cheaper. Hopefully, if augmented reality manuals do catch on, they won't create more problems than they solve.

The Audi A1 was the first vehicle to offer the Audi eKurzinfo app, and Audi is adding the functionality on the A3 and S3 (2012 models and later). The A3 app is now available for free on iOS devices in English, German and Japanese. An Android version will follow in the coming weeks. Metaio plans to push out updates so that users don't have to manually update the app.

Source: Mataio via Engadget