Close your eyes and pretend for a moment that you are sitting in your car. Even though you are not actually in your car, you can probably point out the exact location of the gear changer and climate controls. Generally, cars had become intuitive to use but that has changed with the introduction of digital interfaces and more complexity.
At CloudMade, I am part of the team that is designing solutions to bring back intuitiveness to new vehicles. This page describes the work I have been doing at CloudMade as a UX/UI Designer.
Oct 2018 - present
As one can tell from my job title, my work focuses on designing and creating new user experiences that leverage CloudMade’s proprietary software technology. CloudMade has been creating a range of smart solutions for mobility which are geared towards making the experience inside and outside the car more pleasant; using simplicity and invoking user delight.
CloudMade solutions are smart due to the application of machine learning algorithms which anticipate the next user need. Examples are: predicting where the driver wants to go next or when autonomous driving mode can be best activated based on surroundings and the person driving.
The CloudMade design team is split between two locations: Kiev, Ukraine and London, UK. As well as supporting client projects and designing visual aesthetics of products, the team carries out fully fledged research and product validations. My role in the team is truly multi-faceted which means working on rapid prototyping, constructive research, and UI/UX design, among other design process roles.
It is a designer’s job to turn ideas into reality. We are fortunate to live and work in a time where designers have more sophisticated tools at their disposal than ever. Most tools today are digital, allowing designers to create virtually anything without ever having to leave their desks.
Is that true for every industry though? In many cases, the automotive industry continues to use physical tools for design and validation. Although some of the industry’s methods are expensive, one of the things I have learned from working in this industry is that most ideas that are developed outside of the vehicle, perform very differently than anticipated once integrated in a vehicle. Human machine interfaces (HMI) are becoming increasingly complex and user validation is key to a satisfying user experience.
But what do you do when you don’t have the tools, space, or budget to go out and test your product? What if you are designing for drivers in a city that is becoming increasingly difficult to drive in?
In order to address that design issue that we experienced at CloudMade, I embarked on creating a virtual prototyping environment. What started out with a 3D car model dropped into Unity (the world's most popular development platform for creating 2D and 3D multiplatform games and interactive experiences) has progressed into a ‘drivable’ driving simulation that includes dynamic traffic, events, haptics feedback, and a dedicated head unit display and instrument cluster.
The simulation has been built in a modular way so we can quickly test and verify different concepts and mockups. Adding mobile devices and displays is easy thanks to various wired and wireless communication protocols. Even though the CloudMade office are located in busy Central London —where driving to work would cost is £500 every week in parking alone!— we are now able to test our ideas and quickly iterate at a fraction of the cost and with more reliable results.
The simulation is still being developed to handle the multiple different use cases CloudMade is offering or has planned. CloudMade’s Kiev office has a duplicate of the virtual prototyping environment, which can be updated remotely depending on local project needs. Please watch the video to learn more about its capabilities and level of finish.
CloudMade is technology-driven but it is the design team that defines its future vision. In order to better convey CloudMade’s vision, we created a deliverable: a future world in virtual reality (VR).
The VR experience is situated in a city where the car adjusts to the driver depending on their needs during the journey. The experience is composed of two extremes: a ‘retox’ experience in the morning by providing all the information needed to start the day and a ‘detox’ experience at the end of the day, using reclined seats and minimal UI for the user to enjoy the end of the day.
It has been my task to ideate new concepts in VR and build an innovative gaze-interaction for the driver. VR was the ideal prototyping environment in this case because we could provide augmented information popping up in and around the car based on the user’s gaze in a 3D space. Naturally people look at points of interest, if they are interesting enough we would overlay the object with useful information.
How to take this idea beyond a demonstrator? Gaze-data in combination with the right inference engine could lead to some interesting predictions on user behaviour. This information could help us tailor the user experience to the user’s desires at the right moment. Instagram and YouTube know a lot about their users to predict which videos or advertisements to recommend; where we look can elicit new dynamic user needs.