Ease & Boost

BMW and driving pleasure have gone together ever since 1965, the year in which the famous slogan was used for the first time. But what will become of our enthusiasm for automotive transport in the future? We asked Domagoj Dukec, Head of Design with BMW, and motivation researcher Prof. Hugo Kehr for answers in our interview.
Text Natalie Diedrichs
Photo WE! shoot it, Enes Kucevic

Ideally, in the future we’ll be able to choose if we want to drive our cars ourselves or if we want them to do the driving for us. BMW has interpreted both scenarios and has come up with what it calls “Ease” and “Boost”. If you choose the “Ease” mode, the steering wheel retracts, as the car does the steering so you can lean back and enjoy the ride. Choose “Boost”, however, and the steering wheel and indicators move to face you as driver so you can take over.
To illustrate the two concepts of “Ease” and “Boost”, the BMW design team developed the two Vision concepts, the Vision iNEXT and Vision M NEXT. They show very different ways in which artificial intelligence can be used in the field of mobility in the future. We learned more from BMW’s Head of Design Domagoj Dukec.

Mr. Dukec, our first question: Will BMW buyers in the future have to decide if they want “Ease” or “Boost” in their cars?
No, we won’t be offering “Ease” and “Boost” in every vehicle – the iNEXT and the M NEXT simply serve the purpose of illustrating the philosophy behind these two concepts. We wanted to illustrate, in a very bold and simple way, two strategic aspects that will be united in a single car at a later point in time.

Can you explain the difference between “Ease” and “Boost”?
It is all about different ways of interaction between man and machine. What kind of interconnection is there? And which influence does this interconnection have on driving behavior? The “Ease” mode in the Vision iNEXT is more for longer journeys and not direct routes. The car drives you, and you can sit back and relax. It’s not a mode in which every minute counts. The Vision M NEXT and the “Boost” mode, by contrast, are all about getting efficiently from A to B when you are at the wheel.

How have you visualized this difference?
It starts with the iNEXT’s exterior and its color fade: the car’s color fades from silver to bronze. It’s a very smooth transition between the colors. This shows that this model is all about comfort. There’s nothing that will bother you. It’s like floating on water. Total peace and quiet, so that you’ll leave the car feeling refreshed and happy when you’ve reached your destination.

And what is “Boost” all about?
It’s about driving yourself. “Boost” is characterized by clearer lines and a more graphic appearance, including the strong contrast between silver and the iconic “thrilling orange”. The interior is intended to create a specific atmosphere by hiding certain factors – in this case not to help the passengers relax, but to help them focus exclusively on driving. There’s nothing that’ll distract them. Drivers sit down in the car and leave their hands on the wheel.

How do driver and car interact?
We distinguish unimodal and multimodal input in our Vision iNEXT and M NEXT. “Multimodal” means that input can be entered via voice or gesture control or, in the traditional way, using a touch pad. No matter where I am in the car, I don’t have to perform any contortions, as I will always have several possibilities to interact with the vehicle. In the M NEXT, we deliberately decided to provide just for one way of interaction. For example, you have to press a button to start the car. At the same time, your fingerprint will be read, and wheel and seat will be adjusted to the ideal position for you to allow for a sporty drive.

So the car decides how I’m supposed to sit?
This is to perfectly complement and optimize your own driving skills. When you buy a BMW, you’ll become an “ultimate driver”. This means that we use artificial intelligence to make sure you’ll be able to drive a sports car almost like a race car driver. Even if you lack a certain amount of talent and experience, the car will make up for that and support you.

Can you tell us more about that?
Let’s take the contact-analog head-up display. It displays all the information you need on the windscreen: curves, speeds, even ideal lines. In this mode, the display in the wheel is turned off and can’t be operated. You may, however, control the car using your voice. It’s as if you were talking to a pit crew.

You said that the M NEXT is intended to be the most efficient connection of man and machine. Is it also the most emotional one?
I’d say that both models stand for extreme emotionality. There are different kinds of emotions that may be stirred, no matter if I listen to gentle melodies or heavy beats. We always try to stir emotions with our design, because emotions are the number one reason why people buy things. The decision to buy a product from the premium or luxury segment can’t be a purely rational one.

»Ease your life, boost your moment.«

What do you personally think: How much “Ease” and how much “Boost” is necessary for a good life?
I think that it’s all about finding a good balance. It’s like yin and yang. If you have a ratio of fifty to fifty, you’ll probably achieve the best performance. Ease your life, boost your moment – that’s how we’ve put it. But I guess you should ask the motivation researcher about that.

We certainly will. But first, one last question: What is the biggest challenge when designing innovative products?
Feasibility. There are no limits to our creativity at the brainstorming stage, but, in the end, there’s no point in coming up with something that will never be feasible. This means that we may exaggerate certain things to illustrate certain aspects very clearly, but we always have to keep in mind what is technically possible and how we can come up with an attractive package. That’s the main task of design.

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