How Marvel Cinematic tech influenced the GMC Hummer EV's dashboard
Iron man, Captain America, Colonel Nick Fury, general motors.
No, the automaker isn't joining the Marvel cinematic universe, but it is technically connected now.
Thanks to the expertise of perception.
The motion graphics and design studio behind many of the craziest sci-fi interfaces you'll find throughout the MCU.
And the latest example of perceptions handiwork can be found in the dashboard of the upcoming GMC Hummer EV.
Now, graphic design superheroes and automotive tech are kind of the holy trinity of things closest to my heart.
So to find out how these worlds ended up colliding in the upcoming Hummer SUV and F UT, I called up john Lapore, the Chief Creative Director at perception for a little chat.
We've been really fortunate to I work with Marvel for about 10 years now first film that we worked on with them was Iron Man two.
And we were brought on specifically to make a whole bunch of the tech and gadgets that Tony Stark uses in the film.
And ever since then we've been collaborating on like almost every Marvel film since then a lot of that work is focused on the, a similar sort of thing where we're designing the various technologies and gadgets that are in the movies.
Some of the notable ones were like We designed Solas presence in Captain America The Winter Soldier when he, you know, kind of trapped in a computer and whatnot, which, to us was awesome because the russos came to us and they were like, they were like, Hey, we're worried this thing is just gonna look like
A goofy Mac's head drones sort of thing and I thought we did a good job of making it feel like this like sinister blend of antiquated tech while while still making that, that concept of like there's a person trapped in the computer which is like such a like, over the top concept and kind of like grounded it in something that was That was a little more realistic.
But then from there, a whole bunch of other things in various films.
Our crowning achievement to this point has been the work we did on Black Panther.
Developing and creating this concept that instead of Wakanda, having holograms we've seen in every single other movie, that's just like Glowing blue **** floating in the air everywhere that instead it was this like physical construct of Vibranium sand.
You know you can you can even see in the film little cues or little hints of the fact that like the Vibranium stand is actuated by ultrasonic sound waves that make it levitate and create these.
Sculptures and forms so that like you have a holographic like experience but something that you can like reach out and touch like that's to us that that was just something really, really cool and fun and then in that extended not just from this tech paradigm but into the opening prologue scene in the film where you get the wakandan history lesson.
And then the closing title sequence, which for us it was a fun thing where we're kind of making this almost celebratory music video.
And I've probably had nothing more exciting happened to me in my career than when the Director Ryan Coogler plays over speakerphone to us.
He's like We've got a song that we're thinking we're going to put on the on the sequencing he's playing it over the phone we're like, holy ****, that's Kendrick Lamar, and we were just blown away that was that was something that kind of helped to tie that whole thing up.
So yeah, we've had a ton of fun.
Working with Marvel is kind of like their go to team for developing the the tech and the gadgets in these films.
We've done some other stuff also like a lot of title sequences.
We've even designed the the Marvel Studios logo that appears at the beginning of the of the film with the Michael Giacchino fanfare playing alongside it, it's been an awesome experience for us.
But then the other side of the coin for us is we spend, 50% of our time working on these films and then the other 50% of our time, we're collaborating with some of the biggest names in technology.
And also in automotive as well.
And these companies are coming to us saying like, Hey, we're trying to figure out how to take advantage of exciting emerging technology paradigms and ways that they can take The next generation of their products or tools or software to a level that feels as like ambitious as we're used to seeing in in film, and we've been having some tremendous success in automotive.
This is where GMC comes in.
With the Hummer.
So of course this brings me to our latest and greatest project that we're so freakin excited about, which was developing the in car digital experience for the new Hummer, EV which it goes without saying is a vehicle that has like No shortage of personality, and attitude.
And I think just the whole future forward concept of the vehicle, aligns beautifully with our sensibilities and kind of what we bring to the table.
So obviously a different approach is needed when designing an in-car interface that people actually have to use on the road, as opposed to something like Tony Stark's Jarvis interface and the Ironman armor that only has to look cool on screen.
Turns out John gets this question a lot.
We've been doing this kind of work, going back and forth between these two worlds for a decade now It's not uncommon that when we sit down with a team at a company, like let's say SpaceX, that there's somebody in the room that raises their hand that's like, well, making fake **** in the movie is cool and all but like, what does that have to do with with reality and so.
Although we started focused on film, we really put a big emphasis.
As we were transitioning more and more into this real world work.
When we're creating a real world product, we're not making something for our own portfolio, we're designing and creating something that needs to make someone's life.
Easier, it needs to improve an experience for the human that's using it.
The idea of it feeling cool or fancy or futuristic All of that goes out the window if it doesn't work, but if it doesn't make your life easier and better.
And I think also where we find ourselves connecting really well is working on projects, or platforms, or tools where all of the problems have not been solved yet.
And there's a lot of really exciting things happening in Augmented reality, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and all sorts of other spaces where there isn't already a well-established sort of like best practices list.
There's not a user manual for how to approach these problems.
And that's where we tend to flourish because in a lot of user experience work and in the traditional user experience mindset There's like a dedicated tried and true process and you just follow that one step at a time.
And that's why in many cases, a lot of digital products have similar experiences to them.
And there's, you know, there's areas where I think that can be really helpful and really useful.
But there's other areas where a certain product or a certain experience Wants to break new ground and certainly Hummer EV with these incredible capabilities that the vehicle has like, far beyond any of its competitors and also it just being this vehicle That is gonna be a flagship for General Motors transition to electric.
It was the right place, I think for us to kinda forge new ground and create something that was A bit more a bit more unique.
And then, on top of that automotive just in general, even same number of regulations, requirements, restrictions and whatnot that you have to work with how much of what you're doing is reimagining the way That information is presented.
Stepping outside of the paradigm of attack ometre is a needle that moves this way or were there any ways particularly with the hammer ,where you were able to look at the way a piece of information was presented and go we can do that better.
Every visualization that we're used to especially in a vehicle you think of things like seeing, you know, a needle moving along a dial, why does it Why did a needle move along a dial and why have we been doing that?
Well, because mechanically that was the most efficient and effective way.
Of putting that into a vehicle now that we're looking at digital displays to use those same exact paradigms at times, it feels like we're hanging on to the past a little too much, or we're.
We're paying homage to antiques and on a vehicle like Hummer EV, that's the last thing that you want to do.
So, in almost every place we're looking at it from the ground up thinking about how can we utilize the technology that we have at our disposal to as effectively as possible communicate these different points of information to the driver.
One of the best examples of that is within the off road app in the Hummer, EV.
There's a whole suite of different visualizations that you can configure and arrange to see all sorts of different metrics.
Based on how the vehicle is performing, and one of those is a pitch and roll visualization.
And it's something that is existed in other off road vehicles in the past even as an analog gauge as like a liquid filled level like element and you would have a dial for pitch You would have a dial for role and you would see those things sort of rock back and forth.
In the Hummer.
eV you have a spherical gyroscope that floats in 360 degree orientation.
It's a fully three dimensional Visualization that shows you in a way that we've never seen before in an off road vehicle, how its attitude is as its approaching, you know, interesting off road obstacles to us.
It was the most effective way of designing this visualization for the user to understand and interpret as opposed to kind of saying like Well, this is my role, you know, that's my side to side and this is you know, my pitch and this is front to back.
Now one of the biggest advantages of using screens and digital UI is that it's dynamic and customizable, but if you've ever crashed it all the icons on your dad's desktop, you know that
Customization can get out of hand pretty quickly.
I asked john how perception is balancing this great power with that great responsibility.
It's important to us that we are presenting the driver with something that matches the character and the personality.
Of the vehicle and so, there's a certain degree to which we want it to be a curated experience.
We don't want it to just be like, set all the colors, choose your desktop background and whatnot, we want it to be something That reminds the drivers that they are sitting in in the Hummer and that it's not I moved from a different vehicle and the same experience followed me into this vehicle.
But at the same time we don't want to we wanna make sure that the driver has the control To see whatever kinds of data and visualizations and information is going to help them out in in their life.
So within the Hummer, there's multiple different drive modes in the vehicle, something that's becoming more and more commonplace in vehicles.
That setup the vehicle for different kinds of driving and capabilities and similarly there's a suite of different layouts.
For the instrumentation in the instrument cluster, that you can choose between some that are maybe a little more simple and restrained or don't have information overload on them.
But when you've got someone who's a hardcore off roader, they might wanna be able to see as many different visualizations on the instrument cluster at the same time as they can, as well as on the center stack too.
And so there's, you know, a wide range of different platforms and applications within the center stack from a energy app that will give you any of the data or information that you need.
Around your charging and battery maintenance schedules and whatnot on the vehicle, as well as in the key thing for the Hummer is the off-road app and the off-road app as I mentioned before, huge suite of different visualizations that you can bring up can be configured to show you different bits of information depending on the style of driving.
That you're doing in that given moment.
And for us, that helps to give the you know, some drivers we know are just going to get in, they're going to start up the vehicle and they might not ever change a single setting in these systems.
In their entire ownership of the vehicle, but for those that are really deep into this that obsess over this stuff that want to make sure that they're getting the most out of the vehicle that they can, we've we've set it up so that there's a A almost infinite number of kind of configurations that you can do between the instrument cluster and the centre stack that are focused less on aesthetics and mood and more about providing the critical information to the driver.
And we put a big emphasis on this.
The idea that What we want to do is make sure that we are empowering the driver of the Hummer EV and to encourage them to take advantage of the unbelievable capabilities that this vehicle has Now a thread that extended throughout my conversation with John a self described dyed in the wool enthusiast is this idea that even as Automotive Technology pushes further into the future and draws more inspiration from science and fiction, that there's still a lot to be gained from looking backwards and learn from the history of automotive design.
There's a lot of unease or discomfort as we're transitioning to things like EV's and semi autonomous platforms and whatnot.
But we we like to think that there's ways that we can embrace The new and what's emerging while still being able to capture and hold on to the the things that make these experiences just full on romantic to those of us that that care about them so much.
Huge shout out to john Lapore and the rest of the perception and GMC team for taking the time out to talk to us about science fiction science fact superheroes and the Hummer, EV Want to learn more about GMC The upcoming super powered electric truck?
Well, my man Craig Cole's got pretty much everything you could want to know in our first look video which you can find link down below or over on the roadshow COMM But while I've got you here, do you want to see more interviews with industry insiders like this one?
Sound off in the comments below.