Digiteq Automotive’s unique VXLab for testing user interface concepts validates subjective user data using behavioural research, powerful computers and special hardware. Virtual reality makes testing more comprehensive and efficient. And adapt future developments even more to the needs of the users.
At last year’s Autumn Innovation Week, which took place at the Multifunctional Centre in Prague’s Pankrác district, visitors were impressed by a car model exhibited by Digiteq Automotive. However, it was not the car itself, but a presentation of the principles used by the company’s VX laboratory to test user interfaces (HMI). In this case, virtual reality can be used to verify where the driver is looking while driving, how much attention he or she is paying to the driving itself, and how much time it takes to set up the necessary application in the vehicle while driving.
“When driving a car in virtual reality, we monitor whether the driver is paying attention to driving, or what he or she is doing when he or she is not. We use these processes when we actually develop individual functions or applications for the infotainment system. Thanks to this research, developers can change the look and feel of the apps to make them simpler and clearer, and therefore safer to drive,” says Jakub Zámostný, Senior Project Manager at Digiteq Automotive, under which VXLab falls.
VXLab explores behaviour
The main motivation for creating VXLab was to validate subjective data from users. This is because there were often discrepancies between how the user behaved during testing, which was evident in the video footage, and how the user then evaluated their behaviour. Users very often found the HMI concepts more difficult to use, could not find the listed items or complete the task. “But most of them were unable to evaluate this behaviour objectively or downplayed their behaviour, which distorted the results of the research,” explains Štěpán Opava, senior UX researcher.
And so VXLab was born – a research lab focused on behavioural research, equipped with powerful computing technology and special hardware for measuring biometric data. It currently houses sensors for tracking eye movement (EyeTracking) on and off the road, measuring stress (Galvanic Skin Response) or recognizing emotions from facial expressions (Facial Expression Recognition), for example. Digiteq experts also plan to integrate an optical solution to measure driver distraction even better, allowing them to analyze their head and shoulder movements.
“The VX laboratory is equipped with powerful computer technology for measuring biometric data.”
With these new types of measurements, Digiteq Automotive is able to collect data that provides even better outputs and conclusions for their customers. At VXLab, they focus primarily on testing in two different environments: in front of a screen, which is particularly suitable for rapid testing of new HMI concepts or other graphical designs, and in virtual reality.
Five years of experience
Testing in front of a screen in a specially modified cockpit is mainly used to test more advanced user interface concepts that are closer to serial implementation. They use their own specialised software to aggregate and synchronise the measured data from the connected sensors. They can also broadcast the progress of the study, including the test data, live to the customer’s designers and other interested HMI developers.
For the virtual reality evaluation, they created a complex scene with a detailed 3D model of the cockpit of the Skoda Enyaq, or another car, and a driving experience with a traffic simulator. This allowed them to test the user interface, but also other features with almost unlimited possibilities. The experience of controlling the car is very close to reality. This gives carmakers the opportunity to comprehensively test the user-friendliness of new HMI concepts or to examine user reactions to assistance system interventions or various warning messages.
Digiteq Autmotive has been involved in user research for a long time. As of 2018, they have conducted more than 100 mostly qualitative user studies here. The results of these researches tend to be beneficial not only for their customers, i.e. the HMI development departments of various Group brands, but also within their internal projects.
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