Behind the Wheel of Innovation: intive's Approach to Advanced HMI and Infotainment Systems

In the fast-paced world of automotive innovation, the intersection of Human-Machine Interaction (HMI) and infotainment systems is steering the future of driving experiences. We sat down with Alexander Geilfuß, intive's Domain Director HMI, to explore the challenges, innovations, and success stories shaping the road ahead in automotive technology.

What are some of the major challenges when it comes to designing and developing advanced HMI and infotainment systems?

Firstly, the development of infotainment systems is a very exciting and varied subject. There is no other area of automotive where you can be so close to both the vehicle and the end customer.

Infotainment is made up of the terms information and entertainment. The information aspect provides relevant information to the driver, such as vehicle diagnostic information, traffic reports, navigation instructions, and so on. The system also entertains the vehicle occupants, featuring radio, audio playback, streaming services, videos, and even games.

It’s an art and a science to make the large number of functions available to the driver in the most user-friendly way possible. This requires simultaneously managing high levels of complexity while never distracting the driver from the primary function – driving.

The in-car system must therefore be as self-explanatory and supportive as possible, necessitating the use of certain tools to measure intuitivity and potential for driver distraction. Based on the data, we can reconsider and adapt the concept.

It is really exciting to be involved in the development of a system that will only be found in vehicles in a few years' time.

How does intive support its clients in addressing the complexities of HMI and infotainment system development and ensuring successful implementation?

As is so often the case in development, changes to the system are expensive. The later in the development phase the changes are made, the more time-consuming and expensive they become. To avoid these change requests, all changes should have taken place before series development.

We ensure that our customers experience their concepts and designs as quickly as possible. Using rapid prototyping, we react faster than the agile approaches – I like to call it hyper agile. A sketch on a napkin is often enough for us to bring the concept to life.

The visible and tangible simulation is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to HMI and infotainment development. What really sets us apart from the competition is the possibility of reusability and how the simulation connects to the environment. We do this through our stable framework that has been tried and tested over many years. With this framework, we can access the vehicle architecture and thus show real vehicle data in the simulation, enabling us to drive and test in real traffic. It also allows us to carry out test person studies and test the new system against competitor products. And to measure distraction, we carry out studies in virtual worlds, whether via VR or a driving simulator.

From surface programming to mechanical conversions, we offer everything from a single source. Even if we are not involved in later series development, we make a major contribution to quality in the early phase.

In the ever-evolving landscape of automotive technology, how does intive adapt and innovate to stay at the forefront of HMI & infotainment system design and development, benefiting both clients and end-users?

By now, we have learned that you always have to move with the times in software development. So much has changed in the last ten years, especially in the area of user experience and infotainment systems. We’re seeing larger displays, higher resolution, touch sliders, actuator touch areas, gesture recognition, and gaze direction recognition... to name but a few of these innovations.

One way we ensure staying ahead of the industry curve is permanent tech scouting, which we leverage both for internal benefit and customer advisory. When it comes to new technologies, we’re always testing the latest hardware and identifying possible use cases. For example, we’ve identified an increasing focus in the automotive world on XR, which incorporates both VR and AR, and are now exploring its potential for intive customers.

Lastly, we are also constantly analyzing the use of AI in infotainment systems. Whether it's handwriting recognition or a natural language speech system, we already have it in the drawer and can use it if necessary.

Can you highlight specific success stories where intive's support impacted the development and implementation of HMI & infotainment systems?

As a development partner, we have several success stories to look back on. Our simulations are often used to make decisions and alignments. But there is one that sticks in my mind. At the time, the customer was deciding between three competing concepts of what the next generation of infotainment systems could look like. We simulated all three and also set them up mechanically in the correct ergonomic position.

With the help of these three demonstrators, the OEM's top management decided on their preferred concept. I find it impressive that our work was reviewed by the highest management and contributed to building the future of in-car infotainment.

Our years of experience allow us to excel in developing HMI prototypes and solutions that are effectively deployed in numerous high-volume vehicles for leading manufacturers. These impactful contributions have played a crucial role in shaping the UI/UX of forthcoming car generations. For a long time now, we have been cooperating with Audi to create, evaluate, and develop various HMI concepts, contributing to Audi's agility and leveraging cutting-edge technologies to shape the future of the automotive industry.

What do you foresee as the future trends in automotive UI/UX and HMI development?

The development of autonomous driving is progressing every day. For me, this means that the primary activity of the driver is increasingly being taken away, creating new opportunities for interactivity and entertainment. We have already achieved a certain degree of parallelism with mobile devices. For example, we can use the same apps and playlists on our smartphones and in our vehicles, and this transportability of personal preferences will continue to expand.

We’ll also see vehicles become more intelligent. I can well imagine that vehicles will prepare themselves for the driver even before the driver is inside. Seat adjustment, mirrors, air conditioning and so on will already be set. When you drive off, the playlist you were listening to in your SmartHome continues to play. Based on the time of day, the vehicle will know where the driver wants to go and provide unobtrusive assistance.

Autonomous driving will also make longer journeys more enjoyable, allowing you to watch a film with your family while driving. Traffic jams will be bridged with video content from well-known providers. Video calls will be possible to take while riding. The system will become a pleasant co-pilot that operates in the background and only provides support when needed, leveraging AI to provide natural-sounding conversations.

When I think about it like that, I'm already looking forward to the future.

Interested in how intive can help you drive HMI & Infotainment development to new speeds? Get in touch.

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