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Wards UX Conference Generates Discussions on the Future of HMI

Real-time 3D lets designers be designers

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There’s plenty of excitement when automotive UX designers gather to discuss the future of the human-machine interface inside vehicles, as they did during the recent WardsAuto User Experience Conference in Novi, Michigan. Which vehicles currently on the market provide the best user experience, how 5G connectivity will affect automotive user experiences, and how advanced occupant sensing will improve safety and UX in future vehicles generated informative discussions among industry experts.

Ville Kolppo, Design Director at Rightware, serving on a panel entitled “Building a Better UX,” in which Kolppo and his fellow panelists discussed new tools and strategies to help designers create better products in far less time. Kolppo focused his presentation on how real-time 3D graphics speeds up UI development with lower cost while offering designers greater flexibility to develop the finished product.

The auto industry is moving from a model in which designers draw pictures that engineers code into reality, to one where designers decide how the user interface is conceived and how it will react to contextual, environmental, and real-time data. In the new development model, enabled by real-time 3D graphics, the designer is involved in the entire process, all the way through validation.

Historically, UI validation has been performed at the pixel level, comparing the coded result against original drawings until the final product is a perfect match. Real-time 3D requires that designers re-enter the process at the validation phase to ensure the intended appearance and functions materialize on the screen.

The bottom line, Kolppo says, is that UX is now designed by designers, not engineers. “With real-time 3D renderings, measuring pixels with a micrometer is a thing of the past,” he says. “That saves countless time and money, but more importantly, it results in a much better final product.”

Every UI Element Needs a Purpose

A recurring theme at the UX conference was the risk of overloading drivers with too much information. With multiple screens in the cockpit – the instrument panel, the center stack, and head-up displays – designers need to resist the urge to overwhelm drivers’ senses and draw their attention away from the road, at least until Level-5 autonomous vehicles arrive.

One panelist summed it up by paraphrasing a quote from Jurassic Park: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, that they didn't stop to think if they should.” Said the panelist: “Just because designers can fill screens with information, moving graphics, and more, they need to think if they should.”

Kolppo agrees that as long as drivers still control the vehicle, it’s critical for UX designers to provide a safe user experience. He calls is “focused usability,” which displays only relevant information as necessary. “Every element should have a purpose” in automotive UX, Kolppo says, because too much content can distract drivers, compromising safety.

The Power of Kanzi

The WardsAuto editors recognized the top 10 new vehicles that provide an “exemplary user experience.” Now in its fourth year, the Wards '10 Best UX' competition recognizes new vehicles for their “driver-assistance technologies, connectivity, digital displays, voice-activation systems, intuitive controls and infotainment.”

Twenty-three models with all-new or re-designed UX features were evaluated by Wards editors. The top 10 winners were selected for going “above and beyond in creating a perfect user experience for drivers and passengers,” Wards notes. All 10 models were displayed at the conference. The 2019 winners in alphabetical order:

Audi A8
BMW 330i
Chevrolet Blazer
Ford Explorer
Hyundai Palisade
Lexus RX 350
Mercedes-Benz A220
Range Rover Evoque
Subaru Outback
Volkswagen Arteon

We are proud that our Kanzi software powers four of the vehicles listed among the Wards 10 Best UX.
We congratulate all the winning vehicles and their brands, which are spearheading the UX experience with their innovations and designs!

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Read Ville Kolppo’s article on real-time 3D graphics for UX designers at www.rightware.com/blog

Photo by Joe Wilssens Photography (http://www.wilssens.com/).