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The design studio behind Monument Valley is rethinking in-car displays

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For most, Ustwo is best known for its breakout mobile hit, Monument Valley — but the company is also an accomplished design studio. As part of a partnership with car design consultancy CDR, Ustwo took a hard look at instrument clusters, offering up a few fundamental redesigns for how we interpret speed and other critical information while we're driving.

The company notes that even in the digital age, instrument clusters are presently quite skeuomorphic — digital speedometers typically resemble analog ones, and so on — but the freedom afforded by an LCD display means that there's probably an opportunity to try other things that make more sense. It applied what it calls "adaptive hierarchy," displaying only the most relevant information for the current situation where the driver can see it. For instance, when parked, you don't care about speed — you're stopped — so available range is displayed front and center instead, since you probably want to know how far you can go.

Why are we still using digital gauges that look like analog ones?

The problem is that ornamented instrument clusters, digital or analog, are a critical part of a car's branding and identity, particularly as you move upmarket. Ustwo shows a couple examples of how its UI paradigms could be adapted to brand-specific displays — a Ferrari and a Mercedes-Benz, specifically — but they still lack the visual flair we're used to. Maybe that's a good thing for driver distraction, but it'd take a lot of getting used to.

Ustwo notes that it's opening up its concept to anyone who wants to play with it — you can download the code and make your own. Is it time to put the needle out to pasture?