Bringing innovation to the market

How can we understand how consumers will react to products or services before they’ve been developed? How do we make future innovations a tangible reality?

This is a key challenge for Valeo, an innovation-led company working to define ‘the future of mobility’ ahead of the curve. With the world’s biggest tech show, CES, fast approaching, they wanted to create an immersive VR experience which would showcase a range of innovations to both wow visitors to their stand and deliver the critical insights needed to shape future development work.

As a trusted partner, Valeo’s agency, R/GA, came to PRELOADED to co-create and deliver a location-based VR experience which would offer CES visitors a realistic glimpse into the future world of autonomous vehicle travel.

Designing a truly immersive experience

The VR simulation was based around a journey, with the user arriving in an airport, picking up a hire car and then travelling from the airport into a city.

The design challenge was how to pace this story to include the 12 innovative features Valeo wanted to showcase within a fixed engagement window. A rapid prototyping approach was adopted to build a testable version of the experience as soon as possible, so our designers could start to plot out how each feature would naturally fall into the narrative.

The team also had to consider how to create a VR simulation that felt as immediate and realistic as possible. Early on, the decision was made to give viewers gaze control, rather than a hand-held controller, to navigate the experience. And so users choose actions by focusing their gaze on certain areas of the screen – a natural and much simpler method for interacting with VR than using hand-based controllers.

Alongside this, the experience also makes use of ‘six degrees of freedom’ (6DoF) within VR. This enables users to experience the virtual environment from every angle and depth, heightening the sense of presence and engagement with the experience.

The end-user experience also makes use of a multi-sensory VR simulator pod. A common concern with VR experiences is the disorientation that travelling within an experience while being motionless in real life can cause. The VR pod gives the user haptic feedback, which grounds them into the virtual environment, avoiding nausea and increasing immersion.

Imagining the future of mobility

The 12 features in the experience are all based on Valeo’s projection mapping technology, which projects information onto the car’s interior and uses augmented reality to change the appearance of the vehicle.

As users travel to their destination, the car’s innovative features are showcased; from changing the car’s interior to seeing projections of safety and hazard information, the simulation imagines a future where automotive travel is highly-personalised.

Once the vehicle switches to autonomous mode, passengers can view on-demand video content. As they approach the city centre, they can choose to purify the air in the vehicle in response to alerts received on poor air quality.

Not only did the team have to imagine how these features would look and operate, they also designed the vehicle itself, including the futuristic but minimalist interior.

Outside of the vehicle a ‘living city’ thrives with pedestrians, planes and cars all going about their daily routines. Whilst the recreation of a city provides valuable real-world context to the showcased features, the visual style was designed to be reductive to avoid distracting from the core of the experience.

Dashboard interface
Dashboard interface
Dashboard interface
Dashboard interface

Measuring engagement with innovative analytics technology

The main goal of the project was to enable Valeo to collect feedback and responses to the features showcased in the experience.

To achieve this, the team implemented analytics which tracked what users were focusing (or not focusing) on and what they were interacting with. This rich data, along with pre and post feedback questionnaires, enabled Valeo to gain valuable insights that will inform their future research & development strategy.

The simulation was successfully installed at CES 2019 in Las Vegas, where many hundreds of enthusiastic visitors to the Valeo stand played the experience.