MOMENTUM: GENERAL MOTORS
16.682, IAP 2019
Over the course of January, MIT students engage in what is known as Independent Activities Period, or IAP. In the four weeks between the end of the fall and beginning of the spring semesters, we are given the license to do as we wish. For most, this means going abroad to work or teach, taking classes on campus, or staying at home. I spent my first IAP on campus, and during this time was given the opportunity to participate in one of IAP's most challenging programs.
Momentum is targeted towards freshmen and sophomores who desire to get involved in real-world projects early on in their MIT careers. The topic changes every year, ranging from programming and building autonomous vehicles to designing a fully-fledged virtual reality game, all in four weeks. This year, Momentum partnered with General Motors' iHub (GM-iHub) department to work on developing innovative entry and egress solutions for GM's Cruise autonomous vehicle project, to be released later this year.
I include this project in my portfolio because it was a pivotal experience for me. It helped me build up the self-confidence I needed to feel like I truly belonged at MIT, and gave me insight into how to utilise my skills to uniquely contribute to a successful project. It was therefore particularly rewarding that my team, through an immense feat of teamwork and creativity, ultimately won both the prize for Implementability (i.e. from a business perspective, making the most sense for GM to actually use in their cars), as well as for Overall Winner.
I will be outlining the project below, as well as highlighting some of the contributions I made. That said, please keep in mind that this project was, at its core, collaborative. I want to thank Max Raven, Peyton Shields, and Evan Hostetler for being such great teammates. It wouldn't have been the same without you.
FINAL SLIDE DECK
The objective of the project was to, in teams of four, design and develop a functioning solution to entry and egress in General Motors' (GM) Cruise autonomous vehicles (AVs). This was an interesting challenge insofar as that the first generation of AVs will be formative in the creation of new habits and experiences among users. While GM has been working on this project for years, they came to MIT, a school known for technological innovation, in search of input from a different demographic.
The solution could be app or hardware-based, and in the spirit of the project, there were few restrictions placed upon us.
We had a $250.00 budget and three weeks.
Journey Map, courtesy of General Motors, iHUB
As a team we worked very well to ideate and collaborate on various aspects of the design process. When it came to specifically dividing up the workload, I found that my skills were best applied in user interface design and graphics. My friends, Mechanical Engineers (Course 2) and a Computer Scientist (Course 6) were more experienced in their respective fields, and we were able to play off each other to great effect. I also drew and designed our group's logo, as well as our own brand identity.
The graphic identity of rememberAll was based on Cruise's own colour schemes, fonts, and general aesthetic, such that the process of patterning potential future concepts after our project might be made more fluid.
These animal screens were my own pet project. The rationale behind them was a question: what do people do when in these vehicles? While watching a promotional video for Cruise, I noticed that the cars each had names, for instance, "Caracal". While I later found out that the Cruise admin had picked these animal names out of a hat (so to say), I assumed that the cars were meant to be named after endangered animals. Being fortunate enough to have been in Africa numerous times, I knew what a caracal was, but it occurred to me that not all people who use these vehicles might be similarly aware.
Knowing that most of the time screens in the backs of cars are either disused during the ride, or show details of the ride (e.g. a map), I was wondering whether this currently idle platform could be used to disseminate information and awareness about these beautiful animals. I added the scale figure to give some relevance to the pictures and added a fun-fact and brief tagline to attract the customer's attention. Again, the graphic identity of these screens falls in line with the overall Cruise branding.
We designed and used virtual reality scenarios to perform user-testing on our concept. I created a beta version; Max Raven refined and produced a final iteration which could be loaded onto VR glasses. The data collected helped inform our design.
My final contribution to the team was to choreograph and edit a video describing our project, which was then presented to General Motors and Cruise executives. It is a little bit tongue-in-cheek in that it uses official marketing materials from both Cruise and their competitor, Uber, and combines it with (albeit somewhat blurry and arguably poor-quality) footage of ourselves demonstrating our project.
GUEST ENTRY | Peyton Shields
"The best part of Momentum was easily my team. The creativity and dedication each person put into the projection is mind blowing. Everyone went above and beyond what we initially envisioned for the project. Aside from the team’s work ethic, I genuinely enjoyed getting to know my teammates and came to call them close friends. From spending time in lab to preparing to presentations, I came to understand each person more and more, how they think and what they want to do. It was an amazing experience just to be connected with my teammates and I hope to continue the fellowship that Momentum started. It excites me that there are possibilities in the works of a future collaboration between the team and I."