1 Introduction

The special education college at Beijing Union University is a unique high education institution in Beijing, which offers the entrance to university for deaf students. It has an undergraduate major called visual communication especially provided for students with hearing disability and its education aim is to provide universal knowledge on visual interaction design. It specializes in offering services for hearing disabled students on interactive design and service design. It has accumulated research and design experience on vehicle interaction design for deaf drivers for many years. The journey map method using storyboard plays an increasingly important role in the educational curriculum in recent years. In order to let students better understand the method and effectively apply it to user study and design practice, we organize the interactive user experience curriculum which aims to enable students to master the journey map method [1, 5, 9] based on the storyboard and encourage them to think about the application of internet of things (IoT) technique to vehicle interaction design for improving the deaf driving experience.

In the course, key challenges for students are: 1. How to apply the journey map to find challenges the deaf driver might have. 2. What is the cognity of driving behaviors? 3. How to get insights on introducing technology into the improvement of the deaf drivers’ experience. 4. to examine whether the designed scheme can effectively solve pain points problems, and whether it suits on the deaf driving habits and can be applied to the social context where users are [2]? Traditional product design processes and supermarket study methods are insufficient to find latent needs of users [12]. To address the issue, we provide a journey map approach based on storyboard. This method can assist designers in three ways. First, it can help designers build the potential contexts of using the product. Second, it can enable designers to empathize effectively such that they can have insight into hidden needs of users. Last, it can be used as tools to verify to what extent the adaptability of design scheme can reach.

In addition, it is worth noting that the development of autonomous driving technology has brought new opportunities for vehicle-mounted interaction design. There are many problems in the driving process, which may be solved based on the interactive design of the automatic driving technology. Therefore, it is necessary to stress the importance of autonomous driving technology in this course. However, for classroom teaching, in order to allow students to fully understand the characteristics of autopilot technology and design innovative interactive functions based on this technology, teachers need to solve the following three questions: First, introduce the basic knowledge of philosophy of technology to students. In this way, students are aware of the important role that technology plays in social development. At the same time, they also cultivate students’ philosophical thinking ability and historical mission. On this basis, students are allowed to consider the value of technological progress from the perspective of social ethics. Second, to provide effective and streamlined automated driving technology learning materials, so that students can quickly understand the basic characteristics of automatic driving technology. Third, students are encouraged to think about the possibilities of future development with a mindset of development so that students can continuously cultivate their own creative thinking and creative design awareness.

2 Related Work

Recently, there are many IT companies such as Google and Baidu, and some car producing corporations including Volkswagen and Volve, and Tesla, devoting to the study of autonomous vehicle technologies [3, 4, 6]. It is possible that the increasing improvement of technology can help disabled people to get around in a safe and effective way. However, autonomous technique still has limits. First, the objective of pilotless automobile is to reduce the involvement of human drivers into driving so as to prevent accidents [7]. But this deprives the rights of drivers with enjoyment. Second, the fully automatic driving mode has strict requirements on driving environment. Under some complex road conditions and most of country roads, autonomous driving is difficult to implement. Therefore, how to provide deaf people with enjoyment and consider their safety during driving still need to be addressed.

Moreover, in recent 1–2 years, many car-producing companies, such as Audi, begin to focus on the study of advanced self-piloting techniques. Nowadays, various types of products developed by these companies are increasingly developed and put into the consumption market. The problems that consumers have in the use of these products effectively reflect the real consumer demand for autonomous driving technology. For students’ learning activities, it is necessary to understand as much as possible the application cases of these automatic driving technologies and their related experiences and lessons. For example, almost all autopilot product developers have encountered the following problems in product development activities: Between different countries and even different cities, there are usually significant differences in pedestrian behavior, traffic complexity, and driver driving habits. Based on the above experience, it is necessary to provide basic learning materials for students in ethnographic research methods, anthropology and sociology. And urge students to learn the above knowledge after school hours. On this basis, teachers should guide students to consciously conduct corresponding in-car interaction design according to different cultural environments.

3 Settings

The interactive experience course aims to equip students with design theory while gaining practical experience in the development of interactive prototypes, and enrich their ability to study user behaviors to propose solutions based on storyboard. In the course, how to design and draw the cartoon storyboard is introduced in detail. In contrast to video show, the application of storyboard can save the cost and help students quickly form the context of using products in mind [7, 8, 11]. It can also help students find out the real paint points that users have so as to think of solutions of how to utilize the technology of Internet of things [14, 15].

Fifteen deaf students participated in this course and were equally divided into 3 groups. Each group was asked to first learn and understand the basic principles and features of the Internet of things. Then, based on the desk research and field research, they were requested to draw the storyboard of driving process for deaf people and analyze the problems that deaf drivers may have during driving. In the end, students were supposed to use storyboard to think, design and show a new vehicle interactive solution to address the problems.

For the teachers’ team, three instructors were assigned to the course, one was responsible for instructing innovation strategy, one has the background of information technology and one was supervise the design methodology. The innovation teacher provided students with instruction on business model, user study, and demand analysis. The IT teacher took charge in helping student accurately understanding the features and theories of self-piloting technique. The design method instructor was responsible for giving guidance to student’s design practice during the design solution and storyboard drawing phase. The three instructors explained the meaning and methods of interdisciplinary research for students from different perspectives based on their own knowledge background and practical experience. Particularly, students were introduced to user needs research methods, innovative product strategies, computer functional boundaries, Stanford creative design methods and storyboard drawing techniques.

4 Approach

Our research objective is to explore the use of storyboard to the use experience study and to investigate how Internet of things can assist in designing vehicle interactive system for improving deaf driver experience. This is an interesting challenge that presents itself to designers, developers, and researchers. The course lasted for a total of eight calendar weeks. It ran in parallel with others and was scheduled to take up one day per week. We developed a design brief together with the brief holder who contributed some money to purchase partial drawing materials and expenses. While the course does not provide any training on painting, we made sure that each team had at least one student who is a drawing expertise in drawing various contexts and human actions.

The course consists of five iterations with varying lengths, each iteration produces a storyboard with a different focus. The iterations can be summarized as the form of assignments given to the students. We envisage using customer-centered [12, 13] as the design guidance. Students need to stick to the guidance throughout the whole process starting from thinking of solutions to conducting user study and testing designed schemes. In addition, when students try to utilize technology to solve pain points, they also need to consider the sustainable development of human beings as a principle. On the complement of the course, students are required to show a storyboard, which can clearly explain their interactive design. One important judgment is to check whether the presented design scheme is effective for improving driving experience for the deaf.

5 Interactive Behavior Design

Throughout the whole research, students utilized the field study based on storyboard to investigate user needs and design solutions. To ensure an accurate flow of thoughts, a research through design approach is taken, in which the generation of knowledge and the development of applications go hand in hand. Research through design is used as a form of research to contribute to a design activity [16, 17]. The leading principle in the course is customer-centered and it was used in each design step. However, in fact, to strictly stick to this principle is quite difficult. Students often put their own thoughts to users. During the practice, this problem was revised many times. Additionally, it is even more difficult for students to take consideration of human sustainable development since this requires students to have a broad background on humanity, philosophy and society science. The use of storyboard offers a platform for exploring user needs and find solutions to new design, therefore filed research based on storyboard lay foundation for the whole research. During the building of storyboard, relying on the direct experience of user field and technology principle, students gain better understand on driving behaviors of deaf people and the features of Internet of things. This is vital for forming the final solution. Below are brief descriptions of three interactive design concepts concerning what problems students find out for deaf drivers.

5.1 Dealing with Traffic Accident

Especially in large cities in China, complex road conditions lead to frequent traffic accidents. Once the accidents happen, drivers have many troubles to deal with, such as traffic responsibility confirmation, submitting the accident report to their insurance company and booking the repairmen for their vehicle. Due to the communication difficulties between deaf and normal people, deaf drivers may have more challenges than the normal. In future, with the expansion and applications of the Internet of things, solving such problems becomes possible. First, the laser and x-ray recognition system can be installed on vehicles such that vehicles can identify the responsibility according to road condition and vehicle self-condition. Second, the computer system of insurance company can send the insurance report to drivers’ car or phone in a second and it can also give suggestions on where to find repairing points. Thus, it makes the accident more convenient for deaf drivers to deal with. The details of the design process can be found in Fig. 1.

Fig. 1.
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Dealing road accident

5.2 Navigation

During the driving process, vehicle navigation can assist drivers in not only finding routes but also escaping from the traffic. Since looking down on the navigation screen during the driving might lead to safety problems, normal drivers often rely on audio system to avoid such a risk. However, this is unhelpful for deaf drivers. Due to the hearing problems, deaf people have to receive the navigation information via visual signals. Relying on the Internet-of-things, the problems mentioned above can be addressed. Once the deaf driver types into his destination, the navigation can synchronize his needs to the cloud so that the cloud system can automatically query the same needs that normal drivers have. Once the query is done, the cloud can send back the information about normal drivers to the deaf’ computer. At this time, the deaf driver can see a car in front, which is indicated on their front window through augment reality. Thus, he just needs to follow the indicated car to find the correct route. The details of the process can be seen in Fig. 2.

Fig. 2.
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5.3 Advance Warning System

During driving, due to the visual range limitation of the vehicle reflector, drivers cannot find the coming car from rear side. This brings a safety risk when drivers try to change lanes. Since deaf drivers cannot hear the alarming made by the rear car. This situation is even more dangerous for them. In the setting of Internet of things, this problem can be addressed as follow. First, the laser radar can detect the car from rear side and the vehicle can remind the deaf driver through shaking his steering wheel or showing the indicator. Second, each car was issued an identification number so that the driving behavior features can be uploaded to the cloud. If the car from rear has bad driving behavior, the deaf’ car automatically will turn on special lights or shake the steering wheel to warn him. The details of designing process is shown in Fig. 3.

Fig. 3.
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Advance warning system

6 Discussion

All designed storyboards provide a platform for exploring the customers’ pain points and play a vital important role in the practice of the course. Throughout the course, students conducted a comprehensive study on the deaf drivers’ physical and behavior features. This lays great foundations for subsequent design. Using the storyboard, students designed various services that function in vehicle interactive design for deaf drivers. This greatly assists students in understanding the approach of drawing storyboard.

As required by the teaching program, the objective of the course is to require students to master the way of making storyboard and learn how to conduct the study of user needs and design interactive functional methods. The course in this study was conducted in a group form, thus it can collect various ideas. On the other hand, each group member can contribute his/her knowledge to his or her group. But such a form also has limitations. First, personal talents are hardly to be shown. Second, for those who have basic background of drawing storyboard, this course does not provide any advanced programs. This may hinder their ability to explore better design. Last, students who are responsible for drawing the storyboard may lack of sufficient training on the study of user needs and interactive design as drawing the storyboard takes a lot of time. To solve the problems, there is more to do on how to improve existing teaching program.

The course was done in an educational setting but not in a practice setting of commercial product development, because in the educational setting teachers can take control in every important step, which does not provide student chances to experience the real productive setting, a more complicated and varied setting. Thus, how to introduce practical business needs to high educational courses remains a problem. The limitations of this course include the short amount of time, insufficient knowledge and lack of comprehensive user tests. Therefore, students lack of training on user tests.

In addition, it is particularly noteworthy that in this course, although students showed a good sense of innovation and good creative design capabilities, it is still difficult to effectively implement the three factors of business operation mode, brand development strategy and marketing model. Comprehensive considerations. This is highly linked to the fact that students rarely have contact with actual business projects. Therefore, it is necessary to introduce more practical projects for students and to conduct high-quality business thinking teaching. After all, the effective formulation of business strategies is a prerequisite for the development of high-quality user experience research and design.

7 Conclusion

We discussed the application of storyboard to interactive design by applying it to a university course. The teaching results show that in the course the storyboard approach can stimulate students’ creativity and encourage them to apply design thinking to exploration of user needs. Our contribution to the existing education system is improve the vehicle interactive design for the deaf so that autonomous vehicles can bring deaf drivers with indeed benefits. We have two main findings. First, storyboard is a direct way for deaf students to conduct user needs study and propose solutions, and it requires a low cost. Second, the application of storyboard makes the introduction of advanced technology into interactive design feasible. At least, students can easily for see how Internet of things (IoT) can be applied to the solution of designing a deaf driving system in the future.

8 Future Work

First, we will cooperate with companies that can provide prototype production services to build high-fidelity prototype for the design solutions presented in this course. Then, the deaf driver will be recruited to try each interactive function of the prototype product. During this process, students will observe problems in the existing solution. On this basis, students will make improvements to the design plan and create new prototype products. This allows continuous iteration of the design.

Moreover, in order to improve the teaching quality of innovative product design, a toolkit is required for new projects using the storyboard method so as to make user study and design process clear and make existing methodology more practical for students to understand and apply. Also, it requires students to fully understand the context about users. Thus, user study and product design using storyboard can be more effective. In the future, we will work on these tasks.

Last, students will be required to continue to pay attention to the latest developments in IoT technology and autonomous driving technology. Teachers will use new technologies to guide students to provide new solutions to problems encountered by deaf people during driving. The solutions should also be tested whether they are effective.