You'll actually want to read Hyundai's augmented-reality owner's manual

New Hyundai cars bring the owner's manual into the digital world with some very cool augmented-reality features.

Upcoming augmented-reality features in Hyundai's Car Care app virtually walk drivers through learning more about their cars.

Antuan Goodwin/CNET

LOS ANGELES -- Hyundai may not be ditching the paper vehicle owner's manual just yet, but the automaker is addressing the fact that almost no one ever looks at paper manuals anymore with the announcement of its new augmented-reality digital owner's manual.

This isn't Hyundai's first foray into the digitization of the owner's manual. Some may remember that during the first year of its range-topping Equus luxury sedan's North American debut, the automaker briefly gave away Apple iPads to buyers preloaded with an owner's manual app. Though the iPad program was shuttered, the app has grown into the Hyundai Car Care app for Android or iOS, which will be receiving the new augmented-reality features in an update coming soon.

After telling the app what model Hyundai car they own and what options they've chosen (such as Tech package, Sport package), owners will be able to point their phone or tablet's digital camera at the car and, after a few moments, have the app recognize the vehicle and overlay clickable information points onto the image of the car. The augmented-reality points appear over the front and rear of the vehicle, in the engine bay, over the seat controls and on the dashboard.

Point the camera at the dashboard and it will also be overlaid with clickable tidbits about the infotainment system. One such tidbit was a full-screen video explaining step by step how to pair a smartphone. There is also information about climate controls, steering-wheel buttons and more.

Clicking elsewhere in the AR display brings up a full-screen virtual instrument cluster with all of the various error and notification lights, each one of which can give more information about what that light or warning means. If it means something too bad -- like the check-engine light, for example -- the Car Care app can schedule an appointment with a Hyundai dealer or contact roadside assistance.

Pop the hood and point the camera at the engine to get more information about basic maintenance of the Hyundai. For example, a prompt that asks, "How do I check my oil?" can be clicked to display a 3D animated overlay that walks the owner through locating the dipstick and checking the oil level. This might be basic stuff for car guys and gals, but for drivers who find their engine bay daunting, this simple animation could be a big step toward making them feel more comfortable popping their hood.

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The app can overlay the video feed with 3D animations explaining how to, for example, check the fluid levels or change the air filter.

Antuan Goodwin/CNET

During my short demo the app worked well for explaining simple tasks, such as how to change the air filter, check the coolant level or add air to the tires, but it largely (and smartly) avoided more complex tasks. Beyond the AR gimmicks, the app can also be used to learn more about the vehicle, functioning as a searchable and browsable digital reproduction of the owner's manual with full-color images.

Hyundai is rolling out the AR features for its Car Care app for Android and iOS within the next month or two. The first vehicle supported will be the 2015 Hyundai Sonata, but the functionality will be expanded across its 2015 model lineup and beyond.

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