"It is almost painful to watch Nissan designer Naoki Yamamoto get out of a test car. To understand the challenges aging drivers face, the 39-year-old interaction specialist is encased in a proprietary "aging suit" that gives him the mobility and faculties of a driver twice his age. "Sure, it's uncomfortable," Yamamoto says, "but to really understand a problem you have to feel it in your bones."
At an "Interaction Design Workshop" today at the Nissan Design Center in Atsugi, Japan, Yamamoto demonstrated to reporters one of many methods Nissan's Interaction Design team employs in a continuing effort to make future car interiors easier to understand and more comfortable to use.
Interaction design covers all aspects of the interface between people and cars. How do we understand which knob does what - and how it's supposed to work? Where do we expect to find it? How can one design meet the diverse needs of people big and small, strong and weak all over the planet? And how does the experience make people feel?
Feelings - emotional responses to what people see, touch, hear and smell in a car - are absolutely critical to the success of any design. Feelings are also inherently and frustratingly subjective - which is why quantifying and analyzing them is among the paramount tasks of interaction design. For example, how much resistance feels right when turning a knob? What makes leather feel richer than a synthetic alternative?
Careful observation is vital, and Nissan's interaction designers spend countless hours looking for signs of awkwardness as people interact with their vehicles. When not physically uncomfortable - as wearing the "aging suit" - the work can be mind-numbing. "Some days we watch hours and hours of video of different people doing the same thing," says Associate Chief Designer Etsuhiro Watanabe says. "But the biggest challenge is figuring out what to look for." (Continued via putting people first, Dexigner) [Ergonomics Resources]