Voice interaction is slowly making its debut in the automotive industry as it helps minimise the drivers ‘eyes-off-the-road’ time. With the TU Delft, I helped BMW explore this topic and conducted the user research for their personal assistant. An intelligent, digital character that responds to the prompt “Hey BMW”, and is available in 23 languages and markets worldwide.
We started the project with benchmark research in which we tested several voice assistants. Together with the results of an online survey—in which more than 250 BMW drivers participated—we were able to set the key qualities of the assistant. Fast prototyping allowed us to quickly transform the key qualities into initial ideas.
To make it possible for drivers to activate the personal assistant in a quick and easy way we decided to use "Hey BMW” as the standard activation word. By personalising their activation word—for example to “Hey Joy”—drivers can lend even greater personality to their assistant.
To make the communication with the personal assistant feel as natural as possible, we decided to enable multimodality cockpit interaction. In this way, BMW drivers can use a combination of speech, gesture and eye movement to interact with their personal assistant, just as they would do in real life.
To allow for a smart system that adapts to the needs of the driver, the personal assistant is able to apply learned routines in the appropriate context. For instance, “Hey BMW, I want to relax” starts a relaxation programme adjusting the light, music and temperature to the drivers' preferences.
Dieter May, Vice president BMW Group
BMW: Nora Broy & Sigrid van Veen
Research direction: Suzanne Hiemstra & Peter Vink