VO, a virtual assistant for Volvo

VO is a personal assistant for families of Volvo's owner. She facilitates the life of working families through extending in-vehicle space as an office, personalized route planning based on calendar, routine and preference, and accommodating families's communication and decision making process.
Context

CUI in Automobile
9 weeks
September - October 2020

Team

Minkyoung Lee
Peter Cederberg
Xuehui Zhang
Yueru Deng

Roles

Storyboarding
Research
Motion Graphics
Journey Mapping
Wireframing
Video Production

Course

Studio 1: Designing for Interaction with Dina El-Zanfaly and Kyuha Shim
Fall 2020

The Brief
Design a virtual assistant or multimodal interfaces for an automobile company's vehicle in 2025.
We were asked to choose a company to design a virtual assistant/multimodal interface in the automobile context with a focus on conversational user interface.
The Outcome
Created for Volvo, VO is reliable, supportive and innovative.
01. Driving Facilitator
"Your meeting with Jessie will start in 20 minutes. Do you want to turn on auto-driving mode?"
02. An Extended Office
"Hey VO, can you take notes?"
03. Customized Route Suggestion
"Hey VO, I need to get groceries between my next two stops."
04. Safety Measure
"Kids alone in the vehicle."
05. Family Conversation Mediator
"Here are sushi places nearby.
...
Would you like a recommendation?"
Concept Video
Design Process
Exploratory Research
Why Volvo
In the initial stage, we explored opportunities where conversational virtual assistant will play a significant role. We landed on ideas of family-related communication, and vehicle as an office under automobile setting.

With the initial problem space, we searched for a variety of brands including car manufactures, ride-sharing tech, and self-driving car tech. Volvo became our best fit due to its safety heritage, focus on young family, and innovation on autonomous vehicles.
Understanding the Brand
After choosing Volvo, we further explored the brand in terms of brand identity, target audience, and autonomy levels of its autonomous vehicles.
Interview
We had conversation with 5 people based on the storyboards we created. The goal was to understand their current habits, the challenges they faces, and their attitudes towards virtual assistant and self-driving so that we could develop the situation in which conversational virtual assistant greatly improves the status quo, and further narrow down the problem space.
The Challenge
How might we assist working families in transit when plans change and help facilitate nuanced decision making?
Define our Virtual Assistant
VO's Personality
Reliable | Supportive | Innovative
With research insights and our initial scenarios, we wanted our virtual assistant to be reliable, supportive and innovative, as it is aligned with the brand identity, and Volvo's vision for future driving. VO's personality became our design principles to define VO.
Visual Exploration
The final form of VO took inspiration from the brand identity and stories. We started to explore forms through extracting minimal and abstract shapes in Volvo icon and referring to existing virtual assistants' visual system.
Motion Design
Based on work-in-progress storyboards, we identified nine key states of VO:
Voice
VO’s voice needed to have the same personality as its visuals while creating a calm atmosphere and helping nurture long lasting relationships with customers. We explored various voices from female, male to genderless voice, and decided on a female voice.
Concept Development
User Journey Mapping
To better understand the experience of driving Volvo with VO, and its potential opportunities, we outlined the journey of a Volvo user. The journey illustrate what the user might be doing, saying and thinking.
Defining Scenarios
Prototype
Wireframing
Final UI
Reflection
Communication under Remote Setting
We conducted this project remotely because of the pandemic. Communication under remote collaboration was a challenge for all of us. I learnt to adapt new communication mode and tools.
Understanding Users' Behaviors and Needs
In the ideation process, it was easy to create experiences directly based on our potential users' requests, or move functions outside of vehicle space directly inside vehicles. However, after understanding user behaviors, their ways of thinking behind it, and cultural contexts, I learn to create proper ways of interaction in vehicles to help users achieve the same goals that they usually have outside vehicles.
Next Steps