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Webinar Recap:
Design for cars as collaborative robots

Collaborative robots, or cobots, are springing up everywhere, from the home to the office, and increasingly, cars. Cobots add value to a vehicle by improving the user experience and fostering emotional connection. But as history (and the movies!) have proven, it is easy to get robot design wrong; and when you do, you leave users bored, annoyed, or worse – scared.

So, how can automotive companies design cobots that create safer, more productive and rewarding driving experiences? In this webinar recording, Wolfgang Klein, Design Director at Star, shares five key design principles he has learned from the world of cobots that can help you create better automotive experiences. 

You will learn how to:


  • Leverage UX to disperse fears of artificial intelligence
  • Use Industrial and Motion Design to shape a life-like character
  • Craft new interactions between humans and robotic companions
  • Envision new mental models for self-driving cars
  • Fuse your brand and service ecosystem into a coherent personality


Watch the webinar

Drive better in-car experiences with cobots

The depiction of robots in media ranges from benevolent operating systems designed to serve our every need, like Samantha in the movie Her; to evil machine geniuses, like HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey; to hyper-intelligent AI that’s hard to distinguish from humans, like T-1000 in the Terminator movies. But the real robots among us – including drones, toys, and voice assistants – vary in function, human likeness and market adoption, and automotive companies can learn from their successes and failures. 

Jibo, an adorable cobot designed to assist you at home, failed because it overpromised and focused more on emotion than function, while Qoobo, a cushion with a tail that wiggles to comfort users, thrived because it’s niche and affordable. We believe automotive cobots, like NIO, Nomi’s in-car companion, have a unique opportunity to succeed because they add true value and operate in a controlled environment, where AI can be “the boss of its realm.” Just be sure to define a clear purpose for the cobot and be transparent about what it can and cannot do.

Looks matter: Be cute and consistent

If there is an evil version of your technology in the cultural zeitgeist, design with caution. (Automotive companies: don’t forget Stephen King wrote a horror novel about a homicidal car.) Google understands that. That’s why it made its early self-driving car Waymo so cute: to help people feel more comfortable with the far-out notion of autonomous driving. When embodying AI, whether as a cobot, or the vehicle itself, ask yourself what your AI spirit looks like so you can design a cohesive experience as it migrates across screens. Siri, for example, is instantly recognizable on your phone, watch or in-home assistant. 

Build emotional connections (but don’t be creepy)

It’s human nature to feel emotion towards inanimate objects, and many well-designed cobots make us feel like they love us back. Kuri is out of business now, but its fans will always remember the way its heart glowed like E.T. when it “felt” strong emotion. Automotive companies should also look to create emotional bonds, perhaps by programming in-car voice AI to surprise drivers and passengers with a joke, or by using graphics and colors to depict mood and feelings.  

But be mindful of the Uncanny Valley in aesthetics, a theory that it is unsettling when you can’t tell if something is human or not. While in-car AI is clearly not a person, OEMs and their partners should be mindful of the creepiness factor. Earn users’ trust and build connections, but know your boundaries, and be transparent about how data will be collected and used. 

In the next few years, we expect diversification of voice AI personality, age and gender and continued adoption of in-car voice assistants, particularly as more self-driving features come to market. For some OEMs, it will make sense to design cobots as physical manifestations of the technology to help earn users’ trust, while others will display AI graphically, in the HMI, a la Siri. 

The webinar ends with a great tip for designing automotive cobots that involved, of all things, a jellyfish. Give the webinar a listen to find out, or drop us a line and we will tell you about it.

And if you are eager to learn more, check out Wolfgang’s full report on cobots.