VO, a virtual assistant for Volvo self-driving car

Facilitate working families through extending in-vehicle space as an office, personalizing route, and accommodating families' communication.
2020.09 _2020.10 | 9 weeks
Motion Graphics
Conversational UI
Design Research
UX/UI
My roles

Storyboarding
User Research
Motion Graphics
Journey Mapping
Wireframing
Video Production

The brief

Design a virtual assistant or multimodal interfaces with a focus on conversational UI for an automobile company's vehicle in 2025.

The outcome
The Experience
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?"
The outcome
VO' Expression
Reliable | Supportive | Innovative
The outcome
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.
Exploratory Research
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.
Brand Identity
Volvo exhibits a trustworthy, calm and thoughtful image. The visual identity supports its core values of quality, safety, and environmental care.
Target Audience
Volvo has always been considered to be a family brand, particularly families dealing with the hectic lifestyle. They are also expanding their market into young professionals.
Autonomy Level
Volvo's car has a historic reputation for its safety and high quality. With its emphasis on automotive safety, Volvo will integrate Waymo's self-driving technology, which is their "exclusive global L4 partner." For Volvo, a future of travel is "autonomous, electric, connected and safe."
Exploratory Research
User 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.
Key User Quotes
Main Insights:
With L4 autonomy, working parents care about...
Problem Statement
How might we assist working families in transit when plans change and help facilitate nuanced decision making?
Define our Virtual Assistant
VO's Motion Design
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.
We explored visual forms through extracting abstract shapes in Volvo icon and referring to existing virtual assistants' visual systems.
We synthesized 9 key states of VO based on common user scenarios and our storyboards:
We landed on the following visual forms and mapped the motion to identify expression gaps:
Define our Virtual Assistant
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.
Concept Development
Defining Scenarios
Prototype
Wireframing
Prototype
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