During my last semester at Georgia Tech, I conducted an independent study research project under the mentorship of Dr. Wei Wang, an Assistant Professor in the School of Industrial Design, to explore applications of augmented reality in automotive contexts. Ultimately, I created a style-guide that detailed best usability principles to follow when designing applications for sunroofs in cars and designed an application concept derived from research and user testing findings.
In order to better understand how augmented reality was currently used in the market, I read through over 30 research and technical articles. The general trends and overlying themes that I found are outlined below:
AR on the Windshield
From aiding in training novice drivers through calculated visualizations to adding markers that paint over street signs to prevent accidents, there exist a myriad of different concepts for interactive windshield displays. Highlighting potential dangers and assisting with roadside navigation are two of the main features that companies are focusing on. Most of the technology is touch-free and is controlled by voice or hand gestures, allowing drivers to focus on the road and simultaneously switch the controls of the AR display they’re staring at.
Furthermore, companies have explored the entertainment value of these windshield displays. Jaguar conceptualized a “ghost car” visualization that will allow users to race virtual drivers on a real road, competing against real lap times uploaded by other users. Utilizing simultaneous localization and mapping technology combined with vision data gathered by the front-facing camera, the visualizations are placed in the perfect locations on the screen. Similarly, Panasonic’s next-generation vehicle display system uses eight cameras to track the driver’s head and eyes to update imagery on its augmented reality technology display.
Smart Assistants and 3D Dashboards Utilizing AR
Companies are developing 3D experiences for the car without the need for glasses or complicated eye tracking or detection. Using two high-fidelity digital displays layered on top of each other, the technology creates an effect more solid than other glasses 3-D technology as a result . Also, additional testing on higher density displays has apparently conveyed a better sense of physicality for the virtual instruments. Delphi’s technology is pioneering the appearance of instrument cluster and cabin controls and the virtual direction that it’s heading in.
Additionally, Mercedes Benz has created a new smart multimedia system that will offer suggestions based on what it learns about your habits, schedule, and preferences . Its capabilities are designed to grow over time and additions/updates to the suite will be added through software and feature updates pushed from the cloud. Furthermore, it supports voice commands in natural language, including modifying cabin lighting and asking it to play specific songs from an attached USB drive.
Driving Accessories and AR
Skully Technologies has developed an augmented reality helmet that will have a camera that will display turn-by-turn navigation. Additionally, when paired to a smartphone, voice commands can be used to make phone calls and start music playback . Additionally, Mini has developed a pair of augmented reality glasses that offers up information about your ride in your field of vision. You’ll be able to see speeds and speed limits, incoming message notifications, points of interest on route, and camera views to allow individuals to park easier .
After our initial research phase, I came up with my own ideas as to how augmented reality technologies could be applied to the sunroof specifically.
I also conducted a group brainstorming session with Professor Wei Wang and one of his PhD students, Pranav Nair. Below are their concepts:
Out of all the concepts we explored, our group decided that the "constellation mapper" idea had the best use case and traction moving forward. I created a few high-fidelity mockups to envision what the landing dashboard could potentially look like and to use as a visual guide in order to better communicate the features I wanted in the application to my mentor.
From creating the interfaces, I realized that there were no standardized design guidelines to follow for designing for such large screens. Thus, the next step was to move onto user testing, where I could formulate my own style guide in order to craft the best possible user experience for sunroof systems.
I developed screens in Sketch for me to conduct my user testing experiments in order to find out what metrics would be most appropriate in the context of typography, placement, and button sizing.
I also showed participants several concept screens to grab feedback on the idea itself and what opinions they had to offer on potential areas of improvement.
In total, I was able test four different individuals, collecting their height and vision levels in addition to various comments which I used to finalize the style guide.
Final designs to be uploaded soon…