The Background

Between being completely flat out with running Xamling and being lucky enough to have a little time to do a bit of travel, there has been one personal project I have continued to chip away at over the last few months.

In one of my earlier posts I spoke about how annoyed I was when I bought my new car and decided to spend a bit of money on getting a good stereo installed. Turns out it was not very good at all. Besides a few of the features not working as advertised, my biggest issue was the interface. It’s a touch screen device and as far as I can tell, it just has buttons littered all over it like someone has thrown darts at a design to decide where they should go.

Being an interface designer, this probably annoys me a lot more than your common consumer, but I just can’t understand why they can’t add a nice capacitive screen with some tasty gestures to make the driving/music experience better. I would be happy to fork out a few more bucks, although I shouldn’t have to, seeing as I already paid over $1000 for something that is not even a quarter as good as an ipad.

I have also noticed a bit of movement in this area lately, with Ford teaming up with intel and Project Detriot by westcoast customs going to town with adding win8 stuff in cars, which are awesome, but I feel it’s kinda missing the point a bit. I want a head unit I can buy off the shelf, plug into my car and have a great experience when driving and listening to music. Those systems seem to be focusing more on features rather than a simple and easy way to listen to music.

Anyway, I set off on designing an interface for a car stereo and hope to one day get something similar running in my car.

Seeing as I am an designer that works a lot with windows 8 and wp7 that seemed like the obvious path to take, so the design is based on the idea that it would use win8 (probably embedded) to power it.

The Designs

This is the basic home screen, you will notice just one button, pause. and it’s a decent size so it’s simple to hit. Just about everything in the interface is controlled via gestures.

Next/ Previous track: 2 fingers left/right

FastFoward/Rewind: 2 Fingers Left/Right (hold until position)

Users can also use the scrubber for quicker skipping (not for when driving)

Search/SubMenu: Pinch (the UI would shrink to sub menu)

Volume: 2 fingers up or down (this would slowly raise or lower volume)

Volume can also be controlled by the slider at the right (this also shows user current volume)

Attenuate: Tap anywhere that isn’t a button or action (this lowers the volume to very quiet quickly, and also returns to current volume when tapped again)

There are a couple of other actions you can perform on the screen that help the user find music with more ease.

The user can click the name of the artist or the album to be taken directly to that list. I can’t tell you how many times I have thought, “oh I love this band, I wanna listen to their whole album”, and then not bothered because it’s a bit of a PITA.

The weather would use GPS location to keep you updated, but it could also cycle through current location and destination.


This screen is accessed by pinching on the main screen. From here you have search as your main screen, but can access other data sources from the tiles across the top. At the moment, these designs only really cater for HDD music, but it wouldn’t be to hard to get videos and other media items in there as well.

Users can scroll left/right to flick through the albums, or quickly search via the letters across the bottom if they know what they are after.

2 fingers down gesture will take the user to the parent menu, in this case it would be artists.

I haven’t got as far as design how the other sources would work at this stage but it’s something I will look into soon.

Other Features

I have been toying around with is using wifi to sync with your PC inside the house. Allowing the user to update their music from their computer without needing to interact with the car. This could be achieved through having the car stereo staying on for a short time when it’s connected to the wifi and simply syncs up.

Also providing other means to update your music if your car park isn’t close enough

Another concept is a phone app companion. This would allow you to set up your trip before you have even left the house.

Input GPS info

Set up a playlist

and the app could also act as a remote for passengers in the back seat (via bluetooth)


I guess that’s about all I have at the moment. My main goal here is to try and make an interface that is relatively easy and safe to use whiles driving. Most of the actions can be performed without even needing to look at the screen.

The best part is, it’s all very achievable with today’s technology, all it needs is a small form factor tablet, windows 8 and a bit of time up your sleeve.

Let me know what you guys think about it, I would love to take it further and maybe even get a prototype up and running at some stage, just have to find the time for it.