Gentex Vehicle Simulator

An immersive experience showcasing automotive tech

user experience, visual design, animation

Gentex is an industry-leading supplier of advanced chemical, optical, and electronic products for the global automotive industry. [They] supply every major automaker worldwide with advanced electronic features that optimize driver vision and enhance driving safety and convenience.

Gentex came to Midnight Commercial to help design their Vehicle Simulator, an immersive showcase of the company’s automotive technologies, such as biometric personalisation, dimmable glass, home automation control, and more. It was originally commissioned for CES 2018, and now lives at their company headquarters in Michigan where it is still featured prominently in 2020. The experience ties together their technologies in a range of scenarios, allowing Gentex representatives to show customers how their products interact when combined.

I worked on the UX and UI of the experience’s visual interface—the Full Display Mirror (or “FDM,” a rear view mirror that supports full screen video) and Heads Up Display (or “HUD,” a transparent glass display used as the Vehicle Simulator’s main console), and helped determine their physical positions and scale.

A 3D render of the buck, calling out the locations of the HUD and FDM. A list of the scenarios used to demonstrate the technologies, one in which a daughter leaves for school, and one in which a mother returns home from work, and the various technologies that are engaged.

Prototyping

The hardware and physical “buck,” as it’s called in the auto industry, was built by Gentex at their offices in Michigan, while over in Brooklyn all we had to work with was the one FDM provided, an ever-changing 3D model, and a paper prototype to help us envision size and placement of the interface at full scale.

To create the Heads Up Display, two small screens placed side by side were reflected onto a sheet of glass. This meant that after you factored in the distance from the reflections, everything designed would actually be displayed a good percentage smaller. To keep with auto-industry standards for minimum type and graphic display sizes, there was quite a bit of math involved in the selection of our type sizes.

Additionally, the two screens that made up the HUD did not sit flush to each other due to a small bezel. After working with the Gentex engineering team to minimize the gap, we were left with a 6mm space to design around, which heavily influenced the interface graphics.

To make our scenes as true to life as possible, we used the full-screen video capabilities of the FDM to play real recorded footage, so when a guest looked in the rearview, they would see a real view. This helped contextualize the scenarios. To add further realism, we used the same routes seen in the FDM to create a custom GPS map for the HUD, animated to match up exactly with the video footage.

A breakdown of the user interface of the two screens.

Deliverables

The final output was a series of rendered animations, controlled through a custom app (we also designed) that linked up our animated scenarios with the technologies embedded in the buck, such as the dimmable glass—culminating in a fully immersive experience. A host could play through the full sequence, or select specific “micro-moments,” depending on the interests of their guest.

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