The Audi Interaction project was done in partnership with Stanford University and the Helsinki University of Technology for the corporate sponsor Volkswagen Electronics Research Lab. It began with the objective of designing a “revolutionary, futuristic concept” for the Audi Multimedia Interface (MMI) for the year 2020.
Current technological and societal trends point toward virtually unlimited access to information in all aspects of daily life, including driving. Anticipating the needs of users, along with incorporating new technologies as they emerge, is critical to the success of modern car manufacturers. Meeting drivers’ demand for access to information through the development of Human Machine Interfaces, while managing interface usability and safety, represents an opportunity for differentiation through creative design and quality implementation
The physical placement, texture, and shape of the interface and controls need to optimize driver ergonomics. The MMI control element needs to simplify and standardize interaction, as well as consider the needs of future Audi drivers. Additionally, both the input controls as well as the MMI menu and system feedback were to be intuitive to use. The design also needed to consider the Audi “genes” and Joy-of-Use.
The target user demographic for the product is over 50-year-old drivers, as they make up a strong majority of Audi consumers. Projected into the future, this makes our target demographic 30-40 years old today and this was kept in mind during the design process.
The final prototype is centered on a capacitive touch sensing steering wheel, which registers up/down and left/right gestures, as well as squeezing. It has the look and feel of the steering wheel that Audi drivers are accustomed to, but it can be easily activated to act as the MMI input device. One of the greatest technical during the product design process was creating a capacitive sensing grid that could register gestures on the rim of the steering wheel, since there were no examples of such technologies being implemented on a toroidal shape. We arrived at an innovative solution by implementing a capacitive touch sensing grid and quasi piezoelectric film under the steering wheel’s leather.
To simplify MMI menu navigation, we’ve designed a new menu structure and made the graphical user interface more graphical and easier to interpret. The system takes advantage of the natural driving position, by having the MMI screen in the gauge panel, closer to the direct line of sight, and the input device right at the driver’s fingertips. We’ve chosen to demonstrate the MMI system through menu navigation and use of the music player and manipulation of the passenger side mirror and the car windows. We believe these functions will illustrate the potential of using the steering wheel as a control/input element in the MMI system by proving the viability of using capacitive sensing on the rim of the steering wheel, highlighting the ease of menu navigation and selection, showing the practical use of the gauge panel display and demonstrating Joy-of-Use.