Advanced Topics in Interactivity

01.1 — Research

Link to presentation  ⟶

What would the goal of the project be?
The goal of this idea is to design a speculative device that allows the common user to track their car’s health (engine light diagnostics, wheel alignment warnings, battery issues, coolant temperatures, etc.) based on data from their driving habits. 

What do you like about this idea?
I feel like this idea will allow more drivers to have more control over their cars and be able to maintain it accordingly through mobile notifications. Cars are undoubtedly very expensive, and many drivers are unaware of proper car maintenance. The idea of this app is to use an on-boarding diagnostic tool that plugs into any car's data port in order to collect auto-related data, which will then be utilized to determine the car's health. I feel that this app will ease the anxiety around engine related issues, and the diagnostics will allow drivers to save time and money on mechanic fees, as some issues are more minor and easily fixable than others. This trackable data will also use algorithms that can be used to determine when maintenance is required, while also determining the severity of an engine light code. 

What could potentially be your inspirations for this project?
Inspirations for this project include existing technologies, such as the on-board diagnostics tool (OBD II) which is a self diagnosing tool that can be plugged into the car. Generally, this is the tool that is used to determine specific engine issues based on the generated code that is particular to the car model. However, it is bulky, and does not collect ongoing data. Currently, there are apps on the market such as Car Scanner ELM OBD2 by Stanislav Svistunov and OBD2 Expert by ScanTool, Simulator & Bridge that are able to virtually display data from OBD tools, however, the visuals are quite tacky and hard to understand, especially for the common user. These apps also don't provide the proper descriptions of the engine light codes provided by the OBD tool, which will be useful for car owners to determine the severity of the check engine light signal. 

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The image on the left is what the common OBD II tool looks like. It plugs into a car and runs a diagnostic for issues that result in the check engine light notification. It determines the issue by developing a code that is specific to the car manufacturer and the affected subsystem in the car. However, its a bulky tool, and is generally only used when there is an engine related issue.

The image on the center is a screenshot of Car Scanner ELM OBD2 by Stanislav Svistunov, which provides diagnostic solutions based on the connected scanning tool. However, the user interface is very poor and text heavy, and this can be very overwhelming to many users. The dashboard itself seems to be targetted towards car enthusiasts, and would be difficult for the common user to understand. 

The image on the right is a screenshot of OBD2 Expert by ScanTool, Simulator & Bridge, which allows users to see codes from the connected OBD tool. However, the user experience and the user interface of the app is quite poor. It's a text heavy app that uses a background image throughout the app. Users complain that the app doesn't allow them to customize their settings, and that the app generally gives very little information. 

How do you imagine the general visual design of the project?
I aim to avoid the tackiness that many car apps have as the information tends to become cluttered and difficult to read, and add more visual elements so that the app isn't text heavy. Many car apps, as well as in car displays use very dark designs with bright neon colours to mimic cars. My goal is to visualize the app in a simpler and more minimal manner, similar to how Tesla designs their car and mobile applications, so that the information is clear and straight forward. The intention of the speculative device is to connect to its companion mobile app via bluetooth. The data that the device collects on an ongoing basis will be displayed on the app, while also having the capability to connect to car dashboards with CarPlay or Android Auto. 


Some of the visual exploration I did based on data, car, and service based applications. Although most car apps use dark themes with bright colours, I intend to design this app so that the information is easy to understand without overwhelming graphics.

Other concepts that were considering during the brainstorming process include: redesigning the course selection experience and a smart gardening app. However, I felt that designing an app that revolves around car health is more speculative than the other ideas, and I feel that it has more potential in how the animations and final prototype can be designed. 

01.2 — How Might We Workshop

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After reading through the How Might We responses done by my peers, there were a few things that stuck by with me as they were often mentioned. This includes concepts such as:

-  Being easily understandable for the common user
-  Customization for what information is being provided
-  Being able to connect users with one another
-  Empowering the user so they aren't taken advantage of by dealerships and mechanics

Some aspects that I didn't previously consider include the impact that weather may have in driving habits, the possibility of users having multiple vehicles, and how this information can be displayed in a moving vehicle through a hands free device. One of the students also suggested possible ways that a user can feel more empowered by providing instant advice on average pricing for fixes, and being able to share the data collected by the app to mechanics.

Going forward, I want to ensure that the product I design is light for the common user to understand, while also providing customization options for how much technical information the user would like to see. I hope to empower users so that they aren't taken advantage of while connecting users with each other for help. I also want to explore different ways of designing the product so that it can be integrated with a car's user interface using CarPlay or Android Auto. Overall, I really enjoyed this exercise as it got everyone to get involved and provide their insight on enhancing each others concepts. 

01.3 — Statement of Intent

The primary goal of my car health tracking application is to empower the common user to understand what to do is something is wrong with their car, and ensure that it is properly maintained based on their driving habits. I intend to not only focus on a companion mobile application to the speculative device, but would also like to explore integrating it into car systems with CarPlay or Android Auto for a more hands-free experience. This mobile application will solve the problem of people being taken advantage of by car dealerships, and ease their anxiety regarding vehicle issues. 

Speculative | Inviting | Informative | Light | Empowering

The intended audience for my mobile application is young adults who want to have control over their car to avoid constantly going to expensive mechanics for small problems. It is meant to be designed in a simple yet informative manner so that users are not overwhelmed by technical information and heavy graphics. Users will be encouraged to use this mobile interface in multiple instances as it will collect ongoing data on how the car is performing based on driving habits, while also providing lock screen notifications if the car needs to scheduled for a maintenance.

Based on my research and the How Might We workshop, a unique value proposition of my app idea would be customizing the information that is provided to the user. A user will be able to toggle between displaying more technical information or simple yet informative details on the data that the car is collecting. In the comments I received in the How Might We workshop, customization of data is definitely a key component in how the common user can feel more empowered about understanding their car's performance. Another aspect that is considered as a unique value proposition would be creating a community where people can help one another based on car diagnostics. 

The success of this interface will be evaluated by the use cases of the ongoing data that is being collected. This includes using it to understand engine light diagnostics, battery issues, general maintenance, or even providing this data to a mechanic so the user isn't being taken advantage of for more profit.