LONDON – Customization and digitalization play a key role in the future of MINI. With driverless cars and car-sharing services throwing the future of mobility wide open, the brand tosses its projections into the ring with a new concept car. MINI Vision Next 100 was launched on 16 June as part of a London exhibition – Iconic Impulses. The BMW Group Future Experience – which coincides with BMW's centenary year. Instead of looking back, the company is predicting the future with a string of vision vehicles, one for each of its brands. Holger Hampf, head of user experience for BMW Group, explains the role of interactivity in the MINI vision vehicle.
A key element of MINI Vision Next 100 is the Cooperizer, which is a new take on the circular instrument that’s become a signature feature in MINI cockpits. How does it work?
HH: It's an interpretation of a user interface for the MINI brand. We wanted to offer a natural, human interaction with the car as well as something that expresses the brand. MINI has always taken a fairly playful approach to mobility; the focus is on enjoyment and fun. The Cooperizer is our vision of how we could extend that into the future. When you press the central button, 'inspire me', the car suggests ideas based on your profile and on the knowledge the car has about you. It can propose destinations you may not have considered.
How else can you customize the user experience?
HH: When you shift the Cooperizer's dials, the atmosphere and colours change accordingly. It’s best compared to an equalizer that allows you to adjust treble, bass and mids. You can alter certain properties of the car: the way it drives, how its look changes according to your mood, and maybe also the information it provides you. This will all be dependent on the information the car collects, such as the weather outside, the traffic, your location. It will know whether you're up for some entertainment or in a business mood. Whether you’re stressed to reach your next appointment or if you have time – and will adjust your experience to suit.
If people can adjust everything, how does the brand identity fit in?
HH: Digital experience – or user-interface experience – is becoming more and more part of a brand’s visual identity. Until now, the identity of the BMW brands has always been about the exterior design, and partially the interior design: colour and material. More and more we see the user interface – how you interact with the car – becoming an expression of the brand.
It seems like the user experience and interfaces are now extending beyond the skin of the vehicle.
HH: Yes that's fair to say. Digital experiences are becoming increasingly separate from physical objects. They live around the object. We're now talking about experiences that happen before, during and after the drive. As a brand, we're trying to tell a very consistent story that connects all of these experiences. An example of a pre-drive experience would be the car knowing your personal preferences so that by the time you approach and enter it, it’s morphed to your tastes.
How do physical and digital meet in the vehicle?
HH: We're trying to resolve physical aspects, particularly in the front of the car. We're stepping away from traditional manufacturing methodologies, such as producing a voluminous dashboard. We're giving the front seat a view to the street. The Cooperizer is a signature element; it’s what remains of physicality. It’s the interface. If you ask me personally, we also need to find a balance between digital experiences and providing physical elements that are fun for humans to use. We're basically forced into the situation today of having to interact with information by touching a piece of glass on a smart device; you’re holding one in your hand. The sensorial qualities – what we can actually experience when we touch something – is still at a very primitive level. We think there can be other experiences at the touch of your fingertips, and that’s something we’re exploring with the Cooperizer.