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Dr. Tara Akhavan, General Manager, Faurecia IRYStec
In 2015, a dress photo went viral on social media asking a simple question: is the dress white and gold or black and blue? Millions of people commented on the post and the debate continued even after the dress’s true colors (black and blue) were revealed.
Why did so many people see different colors? And why did the people who saw the wrong colors insist they were right?
The answer involves perception, which is something Faurecia’s IRYStec product line division incorporates in our approach to optimizing display screen user experiences. Physiology, perceived color, eye aging, and ambient lighting are all factors in a driver’s ability to see a display screen, and these are factors we consider when developing our technology.
Display screen optimization is not new. People have been looking at screens since the television was invented, and nowadays, people are staring at screens more than ever. Studies show people spend approximately 5 hours each day staring at a screen (pre-pandemic), which contributes to eyestrain and tired eyes. Recognizing this issue, especially when more and more displays are being incorporated into the vehicle, is critical to creating a safer and friendlier user experience for occupants
The journey to commercializing our technology, however, did not happen in the blink of an eye. It started in 2013 when I was a second-year PhD student at the Technical University of Vienna, Austria.
I was working on intertwined impacts of 3D &HDR contents on human perception of displays and wondered if it was possible to bring human perception into the camera-to-display industry? I presented my idea at a conference and by luck, an investor approached me and offered me funding to pursue it.
The funding eventually helped me establish IRYStec, based in Montreal, Canada, and develop the world’s first software platform using perception and physiology to optimize display screens called Perceptual Display Platform (PDP) Vision. IRYStec was acquired by Faurecia in 2020 and in August of that year, our PDP Vision software solution launched on the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet, a first-to-market innovation.
Our PDP Vision adds value to the driver in several ways. Without giving away too many secrets, the basic concept behind our software is adjusting the RGB (red, green, blue) spectrum, the core color spectrum in image-processing and computer-vision, to better suit the driver’s eyes. Most display screens, by default, are set for the eyes of a 25-year-old male, and of course, drivers consist of all genders and ages. Our technology helps instantaneously adjust display screens, so they suit the eyes of an 18-year-old female driver or an 80-year-old male driver.
Another key feature is adjusting displays for ambient lighting. The E-Class Cabriolet, for example, is a convertible, and convertible drivers typically experience significantly brighter conditions by driving with their roofs down. The Cabriolet’s infotainment display is 12.3 inches, which is a lot of screen space exposed to sunlight and vulnerable to reflection. By working closely with the Mercedes-Benz team, we incorporated a software solution that improves visibility by 30 percent and reduces what end users call the “washed out” screen experience from the sunlight.With ambient lighting, we simply utilize the ambient light sensor that exists in all vehicles.
Based on the sensor’s information, we know how much visibility is being lost, so our software makes calculations and adjusts on the fly to reoptimize the display screen. From an automaker’s standpoint, this is very important because our software works seamlessly with current ambient light sensors. No additional sensors are needed, which makes our solution cost effective and eliminates the need for additional commodity spend.
Another benefit to the automaker is energy savings. By optimizing display screens, our solution provides up to 30 percent energy savings and reduces thermal heating. These proof points will be particularly beneficial to automakers as they shift towards EV platforms and need to identify ways to optimize battery usage. In this case, the user not only benefits from improved on-screen visibility but minimal energy usage behind it.
"Without giving away too many secrets, the basic concept behind our software is adjusting the RGB (red, green, blue) spectrum, to better suit the driver’s eyes"
In-vehicle display screens are becoming sleeker and more intuitive. In fact, the screens in most recently-launched vehicles – especially premium vehicles – are as user-friendly as tablets and smart phones. The next generation of drivers have grown up with screens, so they expect their vehicle screens to be as dynamic as their personal devices. This means screen optimization will be an important feature for future vehicle owners, and Faurecia IRYStec is helping automakers realize this feature.
The viral dress debate brought attention to topics such as learned color, unconscious inferences, and perceived image quality. Age, gender, environment, and lifestyle patterns all affect our perception of content. At Faurecia, perception isn’t a viral phenomenon; it’s a critical factor in optimizing display screens and improving user experiences.