VISION-S Prototype Design Story

How Sony's foray into mobility
became a pursuit of "reality"

#3 Interior design

When does the VISION-S Prototype’s “OVAL” concept really come through? It might be when you get into the cabin—a space
that doesn’t as much hold you as it wraps you. The designers who crafted that interior space set out to build a next-generation mobility experience.
They wanted to showcase a new, bold take on what security and entertainment could be in the years to come.

OVAL structures inside
and out, layer upon layer

The VISION-S Prototype wraps riders in layers of oval structures. First is the veil of the actual interior, providing a spacious “cocoon” for riders to inhabit. The next layer outward comprises the high-performance sensors that monitor the car’s periphery with full, 360-degree coverage. After that is a more intangible “oval”—society itself. The idea revolves around a constant link between cars and the surrounding community, one where information and entertainment flow freely from the outside world into the in-vehicle environment. The rider is the center of overlapping oval structures, radiating outward in layers and shapes and contexts that—as Sony envisions it—“wrap people” in a warm embrace. For the interior design team, the ultimate goal was a space where inside and outside would mingle together and form a protective, comforting and deeply exciting enclosure.

Oneness in light: Another dimension of the OVAL concept

Light loops around the VISION-S Prototype (see #1, the exterior design story) when the car’s owner approaches. The loop continues inside the cabin, where it wraps the space on all sides. This illumination not only provides a visual cue for the car’s welcoming embrace but is also a sign that the car has sensed and recognized its owner. Once inside, the owner gets another warm welcome from the oval light circling the interior. Besides giving the oval structure a visible, aesthetic dimension, the lighting design also helps enrich the connection between car and owner. The peace of mind that comes with the smart, responsive, comforting lighting of the VISION-S Prototype reflects the designers’ commitment to their creation.

A UX with entertainment in every direction: Imagining the potential of autonomous driving

The OVAL concept even runs through the in-vehicle entertainment. With the aid of Sony's acoustic technology, speakers are accurately placed throughout the cabin according to fine calculations. They put riders right in the middle of the sound—it feels like the car inhabits the music. The design team knew that the speakers could be visually discreet. Instead of having the speakers make a loud visual statement, the designers chose to subdue their visual presence and make them blend into the space—and cutting back on the visuality made the target experience even more precious. There are even speakers at the base of each headrest; every rider can personalize their immersion in the sound. The design team saw the interior as a new entertainment platform. What emerges from the design is a thrilling interior experience.

Purifying the design to
distill the essence
of the interior

A safer, more secure experience for drivers. A more comfortable experience for riders. That, essentially, is what a car interior is all about. Sony wanted to deliver those benefits to users in a dynamic, effective way. The team opted for a pure, no-frills approach, and you can see evidence of that focus in every detail inside the car. Designers used the same materials for as much surface area as possible to keep visual noise from affecting the driver’s view, for example. That was the same idea for the instrument design, which does away with separations between the individual elements in favor of a seamless, visually consistent setup for optimal aesthetic unity. Look closely, and you also see how everything from basic driving tools like the wheel, side mirrors, and instruments to the door handles, light switches, and even air-conditioning control panel occupies a single horizontal plane. Why? Again aiming to maximize comfort, the design team wanted to keep the driver’s eye movement to a minimum and hand movements as intuitive as possible. The result is a noiseless cockpit, a place where drivers can concentrate on driving.

Openness: Blurring the boundaries between inside and out

More than anything, what makes the VISION-S Prototype so comfortable is the design’s dedication to openness. The team worked with the exterior designers to make sure that the interior could be nice and roomy without dulling the sharp stylings of the car’s outer form. The rear space is a case in point. Not only is the space big—it also makes the ride feel more open, more liberated. Crucial to the rear-space design were the pillars on the sides, which the designers worked to keep out of view to create more expansive vistas. All they see is the glass roof unfolding before their eyes; riding in the back is like stepping out onto a terrace and taking in every corner of the scenery. When you take a ride in the VISION-S Prototype, you feel like you never want to get out.

Sporty yet supremely comfortable

The feel of the seats is another result of our dedicated focus on comfort. They play into and harmonize with the sporty aesthetic of the exterior, and also provide you with gentle sitting support through ergonomically designed shapes and cushioning. We also took great care to ensure that not only do you feel incredible comfort as you sit, but you can also assume your driving position with ease and your field of vision naturally expands. Behind the comfort of the seats is a balance with entertainment. All seats come with high performance speakers built in, so we paid attention to the thickness of the seat backs to ensure not only that there was enough space for the speaker units without compromising the comfort of the person sitting while also securing enough space for rear seats. Because we wanted to make the in-car experience one that riders would never want to leave, we spared no effort in designing seats that were comfortable to sit on for long periods of time.

Weaving the Sony style
into conventional car

The interior-design process was an attempt to bring the Sony design culture and the standard approach to car development into dynamic interplay. Speed and momentum are two of Sony’s strong suits: completing designs and getting the products to market in just a year is standard procedure for Sony Design, where people jump at inspiration as soon as the proverbial light bulb switches on, turn those flashes into actual prototypes, quickly make adjustments, and keep working to nurture their creations. The VISION-S Prototype project followed that same kind of trajectory. As soon as the team got the idea for a panoramic screen, designers worked up a model and tried it out in a test environment to gauge display angles, sizes and ease of touchscreen operability. When an idea hits you, you get to work on it. That’s Sony’s nimble, fast-acting approach—and in the process of creating a car, a weighty, massive product, that agility brought vital energy.

How diversity helped drive the design

While embodying a unique Sony approach to the design process, the interior team also drew inspiration from a broad palette of cultures it had never worked with before. The interior design was a myriad of different elements and materials, given all the parts involved and all the specialists who make the components work. In piecing everything together, the team reached across industry lines and national borders for truly diverse collaboration with a variety of engineers and artisans. “It was a perfect reminder of just how important strong relationships are,” says designer Motoishi. “We wouldn’t have been able to do what we did without bridging the physical and cultural gaps between us, communicating closely, and motivating each other to be the best we could be.” Everyone united behind a single space design: the VISION-S Prototype interior, a unique product of far-reaching diversity and limitless passion. “In retrospect, I think the realization that Sony would never have been able to do this alone is a positive thing,” says creative producer Kurata. “This was a co-creation project where we resonated with others and actively incorporated what was good. This represents further potential for manufacturing, and I believe it’s one of the many successes of this effort.”

Creative Producer Tohru Kurata, Art Director Takuya Motoishi