Ingenious Touchscreen UI for Cars

An Ingenious "Eyes-Free" Touch Based Interface for Cars

Cars these days have a lot of features built in to “enhance the driving experience”. Radio sets, central controls, GPS navigation, CD players… and for every new feature that’s added into the central console, there’s an ugly, unintuitive, horrible user interface. On one hand you might have knobs, buttons and dials that can be used without looking, or you can have a touchscreen interface that’s a but better to look at, less clunky, but requires you to take your eyes off the road. There’s always a tradeoff between form and function, visual appeal versus ease of use. 

Touchscreens today

Touchscreen Interfaces on cars these days, too similar to the button/knob paradigm that preceded it.

Touchscreen Interfaces on cars these days, too similar to the button/knob paradigm that preceded it.

The touchscreen interfaces found on cars today are Skeuomorphic. They adhere to the same layout, the same design language and basically the same way of interaction as the preceding standard, buttons-and-knobs, changing only the input method, which is the touch screen. Skeumorphism is not a bad thing in and of itself, Resemblance to real world objects helps understand and learn things better, as is seen in smartphone operating systems today- iOS and android use icons, text and buttons to great effect. 

However, there is a great difference in the usage scenario here. Smartphones can get away with skeumorphism because the user of the device looks at the display, and not anywhere else, while operating it.

While driving a car, the driver’s attention needs to be on the road. Touchscreen interfaces, in the form that they are in today, can’t simply be ported over for use in automobiles.  Virtual buttons and knobs offer no tactile feedback, and the user needs to search for the button every time.

A new solution

Designer Matthaeus Krenn has created a touch based user interface that can be operated completely without

 A car UI that departs from traditional skeumorphism

A car UI that departs from traditional skeumorphism

having to look at it. Instead of buttons, icons, text or menus, the interface is based on the number of fingers used to touch it, and some gestures like pinching and swiping.  Dragging upwards with two fingers turns up the volume; dragging up with three changes the audio source. Four fingers controls temperature; five for airflow. Each has a unique sensitivity based on its function and can be triggered starting anywhere on the touch surface. Moving up or down with your fingers spread a bit wider offers an additional set of controls. All eight of these can be remapped to the driver’s preference.

This new UI seems totally built from the ground up specifically for touch devices. However, it will take some time and effort for users to train themselves and learn this new interface, something which the designer himself admits needs to be addressed in future iterations. The application is currently available only for the iPad, and can be downloaded here.

In the future…

This focus on building a new touch interface from the ground up is a welcome change, and a step in the right direction. New control methods can offer exciting advantages previously impossible. But they also come with their own set of challenges. 

Augmented reality is another aspect of human computer interaction that looks promising. A user interface that combines both touchscreen technology and augmented reality may very well be the way we interact with our cars in the future. Critical information popping up on the windshield of the car, or Heads up displays found in Sci-Fi movies and video games may not be a fatfetched prospect. The only issue here is that augmented reality displays on car windshields may distract the driver, defeating the purpose of it all.

What do you think is the future of automobile interfaces? Let me know in the comments!

 

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Internal Monologues EP2: Patchwork Nonsense

Will this chorus of voices silence the voices in my head? They tell me nothing. Hisses and brainwaves incoherent, I cannot comprehend. Words fill pages; the meaningless noise manifests itself into “free verse” with “many layers” and being open to interpretation. Eventually I awaken from this mental slumber, the fog wothin cleared and inside I see- nothing.

What I want is to be drowned in a deluge of the “worldless” … the unknown, etched in to paper with lyrical, rhetorical, fancy affirmations of my creativity.

“You just want the joy of solving a jigsaw puzzle” 

The infirmaries that nurture thought are being bombarded with grotesque visuals of sensual pleasures, the collective mind pool so very polluted by the so called wisdom of the people. 

War drums beating in the distance draw closer, greedy mongrels aiming their sights at the last bastions of freedom.

Watchful eyes look at me, but they are eyes full of warmth and radiance.

Glaring irregularities, brazen apathy, waves crash on to an unbreakable rock face. Wrath and passion so beautifully intertwined, the world alas, turns a blind eye. 

There are no ghosts or skeletons, the voyeurs immolate themselves for their cheap pleasures. The jesters and their gestures adored by all. 

“Are the airwaves enriched, or are they infected?”

Deadly concoctions abound, the deadliest in the guise of innocence. Potions that play with emotions, emblazoned on papers, imbibed in minds. 

The coffee cup is never truly emptied……

“Then spill it.”

Not a Prophet, nor a Preacher

 

 

 

 

 

Day after day

I wake up to a world

Desperate

To sell me it’s wares 

The world bears down,

We want to be free ,

Free to be enslaved

By pleasure 

It seems it is prudent

To be hellbent

On spending our lives –

Chasing.

This chase makes us weary

And thus we drown ourselves

Into a sensory overdose.

Thus,our senses overwhelmed,

And distracted ,

We run further

Until we can run no more. 

We must spend our lives,

Bringing the virtual

Into the physical

Latch ourselves by the skin ,

Onto marauding bulls

Of ambition.

And thus this game

Plays itself out

And we play along

Have a dream,

Or make one your own.

Internal Monologues EP1: A Bad Standoff

A tea party was about to begin. Strange, since I don’t drink any tea, green or black. I glanced at the table. The old, wooden table, it’s age apparent by the flaky veneer and its mysterious scrawlings engraved by people long gone. It had a shiny glass top, which was quite amusing; crystalline, yet dirty, rings of tea not yet wiped off.

The guests began to enter the room, and take their seats. First came the mind (might I say my mind?) and took its seat at the head of the ancient table. He was a shape shifter, his shape and expressions changed at his whim. He looked upon me and said,

You must find the Holy Grail.”

The grail, The grail! The Holy Grail! that was the command. I must not fail! I must go forth and make it mine, not caring about the ends of the earth, or even time. But this time, I begged to differ. I protested this order, “What of free will?” I asked. I guess it all started going downhill from there.

Conscience simply looked on, unamused. His face was pale and lifeless. Red-green marks  of strangulation were evident on his neck. He knew he could not talk, or protest. He knew only to sit aside and observe.

The mind thundered, “You will fight me now? you know you cannot win!”

But I want peace! I know not who I am, anymore.

“You’re too blind to know. You’re nothing.

You are merely a man shaped hole. A cavity in the fabric of space-time.

A cavity, that must continually be filled with the validation and adulation of fair women.

You are nonexistent without them, o hollow shell; you may not resist what I tell you to do.”

But my principles! They are who I am!

“What are these principles you speak of? Those ancient scrolls and parchments you so dearly hold against your hollow bosom? Have a look, a close look at those crinkled, yellowed papers. They are filled with strange hieroglyphics and runes; noted down by ancients. Ancients who are now dead and cold, a language now long gone, and so called “knowledge” from an age so remote and desolate, it’s useless to even think of it.”

No! you’re wrong! I do stand for something!

“It’s futile to argue against me. Don’t you realise that I hold the very reins of your existence? Each and every thing you do, or don’t do, must be known to me. I have under my command an army of hormones that tirelessly do my bidding. Think about it, look around. Look at your heart, a group of muscles, look at how far it’s gone, gone down, down into a deep abyss of regret, regret and frustration. The abyss is filling up, filling up with a deadly mix of hormones that sting, tears that depress, blood that boils, bile that singes, your heart will break, why do you still fight me? We will both know peace, all you have to do, is find the holy grail.”

First of all, my heart is not broken, but mangled. It will beat itself back into shape.

Secondly,

What is this holy grail? It promises to make it all better. But it’s pursuit has made me the hollow, shallow, shadow of a man I am today.

‘Tis no grail! ‘Tis a poisoned chalice!

A ring of fire, with a heart of malice!

Every day I do strive to reach unto this thing, apparently holy.

All I get is perennial disappointment, alienation, and regret!

My peers leave my side,

The eternal fire burns my lepered hide,

The maggot eats me from inside!

The room was now filled with people. Everybody was in, the proceedings could now begin. Noise and chatter filled the room, amidst the faint music of a drunken buffoon that could be heard from a distance. The mind, who had fallen silent, spoke once more. 

“We are all gathered here today,

in this historical, impossible, unnatural gathering,

that makes perfect sense.

As you all know, I am the masked master,

the puller of strings,

the dropper of all curtains.

I must control each and every thing that this here

hollow shell body wishes to do.

Even when you think, yes brain, even when you think

that you’ve done something against my wishes,

you will know that I know.”

The brain as usual, was lost in thought. Thoughts, he realised soon, all had their roots in the mind. In fact, they were the two manifestations of the same thing – physical, and meta physical.

The army of hormones sat waiting to do their master’s bidding. They were tools, primal tools, that used the most rudimentary and fundamental human emotions to forward their master’s rule.

Conscience just sat there, knowing that he could not act on his own. He could only react, or prevent.

The great shape shifting intangible entity, constantly changing colours from the blue of peace, to the green of envy, to a deep rage-red, to completely invisible, not looked upon the audience.

“We must reach a golden center!” he boomed. The room shook in the wake of his voice.

“I have realised now that I have been too idiosyncratic. I yearn for peace an eternal peace, a lasting peace. But I forgot that it is I who holds all the reins to the primal joys that you all yearn for!”

And, in that moment of self-hypnotic awareness, I felt a calm descend throughout my body. It reverberated through my hollow shell of existence , and then, as the sound of hollowness changes as water fills up in a bottle, I felt a serene satiety.

The clouds of doubt now left the room. All that was left were rays of the sun, gleaming at my countenance through emerald leaves.

Then, Conscience finally rose, and broke his silence.

“Oh mind, great mind, placid mind, mind of clay!

Must you be deterred by what others do and say?

your own existence truly warped,

for want, for yearning,of true validation!

You need not burn in fury or weep in regret,

at other fools, who get lucky.

They bend the rules to feed the hunger of their loins.

Must you call it a holy grail, and whip

your body into its hollow pursuit?

We are not animals! We are human!

And so are they, whom you so doggedly pursue.

I know, o mind, that the projections of loneliness

are all too painful,

but they are all merely projections!

A way others use, to blend into

the collective pool of insane conformity!

Must you conform, to a society so sick,

must you blend, into a core so rotten?

I must suggest, that we all fight together!

But first, let us all drink our tea, and you sir, your coffee.”

I looked down at my cup. I looked, and I said,

“This coffee is stale; I better throw it away.”