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Design of a serious game for cars to help increase driver skills and lower fuel consumption

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Safe and Sound Drive (Design of a serious game for cars to help increase driver skills and lower fuel consumption)

Reporting period: 2015-09-01 to 2016-08-31

New in-vehicle information systems and advanced driver assistance systems are currently being introduced in cars in order to help driving safely and energy efficiently. These systems help the driver to pay attention to critical events (e.g. collision warnings and blind spot information systems) or deliver important information (e.g. speed limits and navigation instructions). However, safety and environmental impact are most of all dependent on the behaviour and attitude of the driver. Mobile apps and games have been suggested as means to affect behaviour and attitudes, and there are already some mobile applications available for Android and Apple platforms, such as FuelLog, EcoDrive, Efficiency, and GoDriveGreen. However, none of these are designed for interaction during driving. Sound based interaction is a way to facilitate continuous interaction with the driver during driving, without preventing the driver from keeping the gaze on the road. The Safe and Sound Drive project concerned the design of an audio-only serious game for cars that helps drivers to increase eco-driving skills and encourage safe and environmentally friendly approaches to driving. The design process was influenced by industrial design methodology and user-centred agile methods. Game engine technology and audio middleware were used for rapid prototyping. Sounds were made interactive by actively controlling them based on driving behaviour, and were designed to help and encourage a stable and suitable speed. User feedback was collected at an early stage through contextual enquiry sessions during real driving. Later, the system was showcased at two science festivals, where over 400 attendees test drove a game simulator. The agile design process provided continuous feedback to the project team, and guided the design of a version of the game that was evaluated in a simulator experiment. The results from the user studies suggest that opinions about beeps and audio signals vary among subjects whereas music and podcast based contents were generally better received. Alteration of media content by actively adjusting spectral balance or music mix formed working mechanisms for providing cues easily understood by participants. However, the effects on energy efficient behaviour were moderate, suggesting that visual information dominated the determination of the participants’ behaviour in the experiment. The project demonstrated that continuous interactive sounds can be used for influencing driver behaviour. It was further shown that sounds can be designed to be intuitively understood and easily explained. Even though the participants found the game interesting and fun, there was a reluctance to use this kind of media based interactive sounds during real driving. This highlights one of the major challenges for designing the future interactive sounds in cars – to design sounds and interfaces that are appealing and desired by future drivers.

Although the demonstrated effects were moderate and the concepts developed in the project generally were not preferred over only visual feedback, the results provide valuable knowledge for further development of interactive sounds for user interfaces in cars in general, and for eco-coaching in particular. The ideas will be further explored in future studies of interactive sounds, and a study of interactive sounds for eco-coaching based on active noise control in trucks is already planned in cooperation between Scania, Luleå University of Technology and Interactive Institute Swedish ICT, financed by the Swedish Energy Agency. Software developed in the Safe and Sound Drive project will be used for further development and evaluation of sound based and multisensory user interfaces in vehicles. Contacts between Luleå University of Technology and Anglia Ruskin University are well established, and further collaboration is planned.

The results were disseminated through participation in conferences, publication of conference papers, de
Safe and Sound Drive was a Marie Sklodowska Curie Individual Fellowship for Dr Arne Nykänen. The project was carried out at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, UK, during the period 1 September 2015 to 31 August 2016. The aim of the project was to study how serious gaming based on sonic interaction could be used for increasing safety and lowering energy consumption in cars. The project consisted of a training program for Dr Arne Nykänen, a research program developing and assessing sound based driver assistance systems for eco-coaching, and a dissemination and communication program for spreading knowledge about design of interactive sounds to companies and organisations working with vehicles and informing the public about the potential of reducing energy consumption and environmental impact by changing driving behaviour. The objectives were:

Objective 1: Design a demonstrator of a serious game supporting the driver to increase driver skills, lower fuel consumption and allowing safe and environmentally friendly competition with friends.
Objective 2: Develop and release a mobile application version of the game for iOS, available for download from App Store (this will at a later stage be implemented also for Android and Windows).
Objective 3: Measure how the designed game affects fuel consumption, speed and safety.
Objective 4: Training in computer gaming art and technology.
Objective 5: Training in creative use of sound design.
Objective 6: Digital dissemination training – maximising impact of research.
Objective 7: Training in mobile application programming and technology.
Objective 8: Training in commercialisation of mobile applications.
Objective 9: Public dissemination by demonstrations at science centres in the UK and Sweden, and presentations and demonstrations at festivals and events hosted by Anglia Ruskin University and its networks.

The project followed a user-centred research through design scheme. A demonstrator of an audio-only serious game supporting the driver to lower fuel consumption was design. Volvo Car Corporation supported the project with access to a car, full access to sensors and systems in the car. The goal was to develop a mobile applications version of the game for iOS. Because of practical reasons, mainly Nykänen’s previous knowledge in development for the Windows and Android platforms, and because of new knowledge in game engine technology and audio middleware for games gained during the project, the demonstrator was developed using Unreal Engine. The demonstrator was implemented for Windows and demonstrated in a driving simulator and in a car. Future work includes implementation for Android and Apple platforms for public download.

User-Centred Agile Methods
Design of user interfaces is a multidisciplinary task, requiring deep knowledge in psychophysics (or in this particular case, psychoacoustics) and psychology, as well as methods and procedures for design and product development. Knowledge from psychoacoustics and psychology aids the development process, and enables early decisions on potentially successful design routes, avoiding known pitfalls. Examples in the Safe and Sound Drive case are the choice of modality (hearing over vision), choice of frequency content of the sounds to avoid masking, spatial positioning of sound sources to help the driver to keep attention on the road, awareness of the risk of cognitively overloading the driver with a too complex task, etc. However, the design options are still vast, and knowledge is built along the path of the project. A good final design is crucially dependent on how this knowledge is built and taken care of all the way through. A user-centred agile approach was used. In particular, agile game development was explored, as game design is a field where both graphics and sounds are essential parts of the product. The core idea is to organise the work into short iterations (sprints), listening to the evolving product frequently and repeatedly
The project has developed state of the art multi-disciplinary research involving sound design, media technology, computer game design and technology, and engineering acoustics. Nykänen has developed skills in computer game design and technology and applied them in the field of sound design for automotive applications, leading to novel ideas. The ideas have been developed through interaction with professional sound designers and media producers, game designers, automotive engineers, psychologists, and with the public through interaction at two large science festivals in Cambridge. Finally, the developed game was evaluated in a simulator study showing that effects on driving behaviour can be achieved under certain circumstances. The simulator study resulted in extensive material for further development of the concept. The methodology used, based on user-centred agile methods was shown to be useful and effective. The simulator developed, based on game engine technology and audio middleware from the games industry, was effective for getting users into the design loop, and allowed the involved designers to experience and demonstrate ideas early on and repeatedly throughout the project. The methodology and the tools have been demonstrated for automotive manufacturers (Volvo Cars and Scania), and have resulted in serious interest from the manufacturers as well as funding bodies. A pre-study for further development of user interfaces utilising interactive sounds has been granted by the Swedish Energy Agency. The project will run from September 2016 to February 2017, and involves Luleå University of Technology, Scania and Interactive Institute Swedish ICT. The developed simulator will be used and will be further developed in that project. Ideas will also be developed and further explored. Safe and Sound Drive demonstrated that continuous interactive sounds can be used for influencing driver behaviour. It was further shown that sounds can be designed to be intuitively understood and easily explained. However, the study showed that even though people found the game interesting and fun, there was a reluctance to use this kind of media based interactive sounds during real driving. This highlights one of the major challenges for designing the future interactive sounds in cars - to design sound and interfaces that are appealing and desired by future drivers. The continuation project will focus on the use of active noise control to use the interior sound of trucks as interactive sounds. Active noise control allows for the interior sound character to be changed depending on driving state. This will first be studied in a simulator/computer game setting, using the Safe and Sound Drive simulator. The work will follow a user-centred agile approach, and the best ideas from Safe and Sound Drive will be used. This ensures that knowledge and technology developed in Safe and Sound Drive will be developed further.
Safe and Sound Drive demonstrated at Cambridge Festival of Ideas 2015
Safe and Sound Drive simulator experiment