December 04, 2017

HMI concept prototyping

Prototyping is a fun element of designing products. But apart from being fun, it is also a necessary tool for fast and efficient product development. At VanBerlo we prototype all the time to test our concepts. Not only for physical products, but also for digital concepts.

We make sure to stay on top of the latest trends in the product and service design field, and have already been working with digital product development for quite some time. It is vital for us to be able to test user interaction concepts ourselves, and with users, in a realistic setting. We apply our hands-on approach of building prototypes to test concepts, also in the digital field.

In this case we wanted to build a platform for the quick testing of Human Machine Interaction (HMI) concepts, because the complexity of this interaction can't be simulated at a desk. Our main focus has been on building a modular platform that can be used for different HMI projects in different contexts. Ergonomic information was at the core of our design, making the platform suitable for comfortable testing in various scenarios.

Whilst the mechanical engineers were building a modular platform, UX designers, software developers and the system architect worked together to create a modular software setup. One where flexibility was key and quick prototyping needs could be facilitated in the future.

The software developers built up a modular software platform that now gives UX designers the freedom to adjust and add concept solutions that can be prototyped and tested quickly. By hacking existing hardware, like a real car seat with electric controls, we built a system that is totally connected and can show a complete demo of the takeover sequence of an autonomous car. Including a moving chair and steering wheel.

This platform is a great example of how valuable it is to combine product design, User Experience design and software development. Having all these disciplines inhouse, we can manage the complete process through cross-functional teams where designers, engineers and software developers work together towards a common goal. Experienced project managers keep an overview of all the work, whilst specialists take care of their part of the project. By having all the skill sets in one office, we can communicate and collaborate faster and more efficiently.

The result of two months of collaboration? A working demo of everything that would be involved when switching from manual to autonomous driving, which we showcased at the opening of our new office in Eindhoven last month. With this demo, we wanted to give our clients a small preview of what such an autonomous takeover could look like in years to come. We are looking forward to experimenting a lot more in the near future!

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