A surprisingly simple interface with a revolutionary interaction method
The quest of developing a new central control panel concept for Hyundai’s car infotainment system, led our team to a revolutionary, but simple, outcome: an inverted sphere, which we call “The Bowl”. It works because of our ability to draw precise circles with our index fingers, while having a clear sense of where your finger is in relation to the centre, even without looking. Try it out for yourself – take any bowl and draw circles in it with your index finger. You’ll be surprised how precise you can be, even if you do it blindfolded. It’s all thanks to spatial awareness and hand-to-eye coordination. Our concept explorations revealed the effectiveness of the interaction in a range of driving contexts.
After a decade of jog dials, what’s next?
After successful collaboration in previous projects, Hyundai approached us to develop a concept and functional prototype for a new control panel for the car infotainment system, replacing the classical jog-dial controller that has dominated the in-car UI paradigm over the last decade. A key challenge was to meet a 2017-18 launch timeline, while still delivering genuine innovation. Our team envisioned a tailored approach, that enabled ideation of new haptic concepts early in the project timeline, ditching off-the-shelf solutions in favor of starting controller development from scratch.
A “first hack” approach, hand in hand with a user-centered methodology
Right from the beginning, the team ‘thought’ with materials, realizing simple but haptic prototypes to rapidly learn, about the strengths and weaknesses of each variant in the context of driving. Continuously refining the concepts, the team employed state-of-the-art rough and rapid prototyping technologies like Arduino boards, 3D printing and conductive paint, to create functioning prototypes with touch-sensitive surfaces beyond the flat touchpad. We explored a range of different forms: rounded, faceted, elliptic and concave. Our subsequent user tests helped the team to continuously identify which concepts offered optimal usability. These iterative loops resulted in a seamless concept refinement workflow throughout the project.
Rapid prototyping materials combined with conductive spray paint opened up endless possibilities in the creative ideation, leading towards new approaches of contoured touch surfaces for safely operating future car infotainment systems.
Integrated and symbiotic development of a visual and tangible interface
We delivered a complete interface solution, consisting of the hardware and the on-screen UI. We knew that the better the input was linked and mapped to the on-screen actions, the more seamless, intuitive and effortless the operation of the system would feel. The development of the on-screen UI ran in parallel with the touch interface. Interactive prototypes were developed early on, to allow the designaffairs and Hyundai teams to get a sense of how the operation of the on-screen interaction concept would feel in relation to the touch interface. The final project outcome provided a convincing result: The ‘Bowl’ was presented to the public during the 2015 Pebble Beach Concourse d’Elegance (USA), staged in the center console of the Hyundai HCD-16 Vision G Concept Coupe.