DIY automotive UI design – or how hard is it to design for older people

The picture does not show a research prototype – it shows the actual interior of a 5-series BMW (fairly recent model). The driver (an elderly lady) adapted the UI to suit her needs. This modification includes the labeling of controls which are important, writing some instructions for more complicate controls close to them (hereby implementing one of the key ideas of embedded information [1]), an covering some to the user “useless” controls.

At first I assumed this is a prank* – but it seems to be genuine and that makes it really interesting and carries important lessons with regard to designing for drivers of 80 years and older. Having different skins (and not just GUIs more in a physical approach) as well as UI components that can be composed (e.g. based on user needs) in the embedded and tangible domain seem challenging but may new opportunities for customized UIs. Perhaps investigating ideas for personalizing physical user interfaces – and in particular car UIs – may be an interesting project.

[1] Albrecht Schmidt, Matthias Kranz, Paul Holleis. Embedded Information. UbiComp 2004, Workshop ‘Ubiquitous Display Environments’, September 2004

* will try to get more evidence that it is real 🙂

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