Press release



intelligent surfaces
in the Rinspeed Senso




Since its invention, the automobile has been improved mostly with respect to motor technology (horsepower, speed) and comfort/safety for the driver (mirrors, airbags). The „driver-car interface“, however, has remained largely unchanged: Steering wheel, pedals, levers, and buttons are used to „interact“ with the car. Only recently new concepts have been devised, such as navigation systems with speech synthesis. These developments path the way towards a safer driver-car interaction. As both speed and number of cars increase steadily, mobility becomes its own pitfall: the more cars there are on the street, the more stress is induced in the drivers – which might even add to a potentially aggressive mood caused by private or work-related problems. Nowadays, cars are used primarily by individuals, so there is no one there to soothe the drivers in case of aggression, or keep the drivers awake during a long, monotonous journey. This results in an increasing number of accidents caused by stress or drowsiness. One solution to this predicament would be a car that reacts to the mood of its driver.




The Rinspeed Senso with zenMotion shows what the future in automotive man machine interaction could look like: As soon as the driver approaches the car, the zenMotion displays wake up. Based on sensory data from the last trip (gasoline useage, speed, driving behavior etc.), a central computer generates animated patterns on the displays, which at this moment only serve as ornament. However, if certain parameters (such as oil level) are out of their normal range, the patterns change in order to give a visual hint of the anomaly. During the trip, sensors constantly measure speed, accelerate-brake frequency, the driver’s pulse, and other aspects that are part of the „driving behavior“. Depending on the situation, the patterns change to soothe the driver or keep him/her awake, the music volume is adjusted accordingly, and the cabin temperature rises or falls. Of course, this happens in very subtle and unobtrusive ways, so the driver will still fully concentrate on the traffic. When the car is halted, the displays show some of the generated patterns for a while, then they switch to stand-by mode, ready to wake up for the next ride. At the core of the Rinspeed Senso, a computer calculates the cognitively effective patterns based on data obtained by a wide range of sensors: Lane tracking, acceleration-brake cycles, temperature, eye-tracking, pulse, etc. all contribute to the „driving behavior“, which in turn is influenced by the displayed patterns. Of course, the above scenario is still only a vision. The current incarnation does not yet feature all of the described sensors, but already gives a good idea of what the future will look like.




Conceived by Andreas Fischer, an industrial designer from the renowned Bauhaus university in Weimar, the zenMotion system is developed at the universities of Zurich and Innsbruck with designers, psychologists, mathematicians, computer scientists, and engineers. It is aimed at putting to use scientific findings from neurophysiology and psychology of perception by building intelligent surfaces which interact with the users, while at the same time increasing our understanding of how patterns influence on emotional and cognitive levels. With a prototype of the zenMotion system, custom tailored to fit the Rinspeed Senso’s futuristic design, the project team hopes on the one hand to win further insight into the exciting field of cognitive and emotional effects of animated patterns used as an interface, and on the other hand to attract potential sponsors in order to realize its vision of intelligent surfaces.