Racing into
the unknown world
of mobility

Two years ago, in 2020, Sony unveiled the VISION-S 01 (VISION-S Prototype),
an EV prototype that actually drives. This year, the new SUV-type VISION-S 02 was unveiled to the world.
Four designers, representing the teams involved in its development,
talk about the project’s underlying purpose and the challenges that they overcame
in bringing the concept to fruition.

(LtoR) Creative Center, Sony Group Coporation UI/UX Design: Koga Tamamura (Art Director),
Exterior Design: Takuya Motoishi (Art Director), Interior Design: Arinobu Ueda (Art Director),
UI/UX Design: Hidehiro Komatsu (Art Director)

If we’re aiming to evolve,
we must do so aggressively
with the spirit of a challenger.

UedaAs with the previous VISION-S 01 ("01"), the VISION-S 02 ("02") was designed through close collaboration between our planning, design, and engineering teams. The experience of developing the 01 fostered among all project members, including us in the design team, a greater understanding of car manufacturing. It also brought to light plenty of new ideas. This time around, each team was even more proactive in incorporating these ideas into the design.

MotoishiOur main mission for the 02 was to “carry on and deepen” the concepts we incorporated into the 01. I believe that each member involved in the development of the 01 was able to leverage the knowledge they gained in their respective fields to tackle this new challenge.

KomatsuThat’s exactly how I see it. The three concepts around which we designed the 01 were safety, entertainment, and adaptability. When the 01 was unveiled, many more people resonated with these concepts than we had imagined. We felt confident that we were heading in the right direction. That’s why we didn’t hesitate to retain parts that received great feedback.

MotoishiOn the other hand, Sony is still a new challenger in the mobility sector. I think the VISION-S members wanted to not only carry on prior ideas, but also to pursue aggressive evolution. These three concepts were our attempt to change the spatial value of the mobility experience, so we discussed over and over how to maximize their value. Ultimately, we arrived at an SUV. The reason we decided on an SUV is that spaciousness is at the core of every great mobility experience, and it’s especially critical for enjoying entertainment to the fullest. That’s why we concluded that being “roomy” was a must for the next model.

TamamuraBut it’s not just a matter of being roomy. I remember when the 02 project was first launched, we were considering a boxier style. Naturally, a rectangular shape provides more interior space. However, we opted not to go that route.

MotoishiYou’re right. I think one of the reasons why we ended up with a coupe SUV is that SUVs are one of the hottest segments on the global market. It was the result of us daring to step into this highly competitive market to further discover and verify new values in the coupe style. As with the 01, this spirit of willingly taking on a new challenge was very typical of Sony.

TamamuraThe fact that competition is fierce means that our work will be scrutinized more severely, making it easier to anticipate issues that may arise in the future. Receiving tons of feedback and applying it to the project will lead us to our next steps.

Not a variation of
the previous model,
but an evolution of its exterior.

TamamuraThinking back, Mr. Motoishi, you struggled quite a bit with designing the exterior this time, didn’t you? The design of the second generation seems simple, but it’s extremely delicate. After all, the elements that overlap with the 01 can be viewed as the overall framework for VISION-S.

MotoishiExactly. That’s why the first thing I decided as the exterior designer was to faithfully carry on the design concept established in the 01: OVAL, a car “wrapping” around riders. OVAL is the core concept behind the entire design of VISION-S, so naturally it had to be carefully executed. I thought it was important to emphasize the “essence” of the design without changing too many details here and there. While developing the design, we asked ourselves over and over, “What is VISION-S? How do we evolve it?” This entire process felt like a reaffirmation of the VISION-S concept and design by everyone.

UedaPeople tend to think of the 02 as a variation of the 01, but it’s not. Rather, I tackled it as an update, like a “sequel” to or a “deeper” version of the 01. I’m sure the other team members approached it the same way.

MotoishiYes! To name just one example, we deliberately took a different approach to the look of the taillights, which on the 01 form a horizontal line. On the 02, the taillights are a symbol of OVAL, creating a band of light that encircles the entire body. Thus, we were striving to refine the concept further in terms of the exterior design.

KomatsuRegarding the deepening part—I’ve heard that the shift to an SUV has created more space to lower the position of the license plate.

MotoishiThat’s right. By taking advantage of this fact, we were able to maintain a clean surface beneath the taillights, creating a blank space that accentuates the band of light. Thus, the OVAL concept stands out even more clearly. I feel that this single element of the design has “deepened” the concept. In a sense, we succeeded creating the impression of consistency with the 01 at a glance, even though the 02 was redesigned from scratch. This is proof that the concept has been carried on in a genuine manner.

UedaThat said, there’s a significant difference between the 01 and the 02 in terms of overall volume, which means we’ve had to adjust everything from the balance of the body lines to the look of the reflections and even the appearance of the size of the rounding on the ridges (laughs). We modified the positioning and mechanism of the door handles to suit the anticipated users and designed the wheels based on a unique configuration of parts to make the vehicle both lighter and more aerodynamic, as the wheels were a major factor affecting energy consumption. I remember Mr. Motoishi was very particular about the roof line...

MotoishiActually, I think the real star of the 02 is the cabin space and the user experience it offers, so I was especially concerned with drawing a roof line that wrapped around the passengers. Since I was in charge of the interior design of the 01, I had a good feel for exactly how far I could push the envelope this time. I think that this line was vital for Mr. Ueda, who was in charge of the 02’s interior.

UedaThe roof line is what defines the interior space, after all. Because of this, we—the interior design team—worked with Mr. Motoishi had many discussions with him on this point. That said, we also believe that the styling is what is important (laughs). I think customers expect Sony’s SUV to have the same innovative and elegant look as the coupe. That’s why we wanted the exterior design team to get as close as possible to the ideal line.

MotoishiFor sure, innovation is essential in any new release. In other words, both of our teams went beyond their respective domains to optimize the vehicle as a whole. I guess you could say that this system of borderless design development is also one of Sony’s strengths.

Seeking uncompromised
cabin comfort,
while fitting three rows with
seven seats within
the same overall length

UedaThe OVAL concept which we mentioned earlier is about wrapping riders in safety and comfort. At the heart of this concept, I believe, is the quality of the interior space, where people actually spend time in direct contact with the vehicle. Therefore, the interior design team’s mission for the 02 was to deliver the comfort of the OVAL concept in an SUV without compromise.

MotoishiIt sounds simple when you put it that way, but this time you had to fit three rows with seven seats in a vehicle with the same overall length as the 01. It must have been a daunting challenge to ensure passenger comfort.

UedaYou’re right. That’s why the most time-consuming part was making spatial adjustments by running simulations over and over with the chassis engineers. We would repeatedly examine the seating positions using a prototype seating buck or in 3D, then work with the engineers to push the seating positions a few millimeters forward or backward. We aimed to create a comfortable space while taking advantage of the unique chassis characteristics of EVs. In the end, we were able to achieve our desired level of knee clearance and legroom.

KomatsuFrom our perspective in the UI/UX team, the user’s comfort when seated is directly related to the excitement of the entertainment experience. I’m glad that the interior design team was able to work out those details so thoroughly.

UedaThe easiest solution would have been to increase the overall length of the vehicle (laughs). Naturally, no one ever suggested this, yet we were still able to ensure ample comfort without making any compromises. In fact, in addition to the layout, we were able to enhance usability in terms of ergonomics, such as the ease of getting in and out of the car and viewing the gauges.

TamamuraTo begin with, the anticipated users of coupes and SUVs are different. Wouldn’t the optimal design for the interior have to change as well?

UedaThe 02 was designed with families in mind. For example, the SUV is tall, so we optimized the shape of the side sills in profile and their distance from the ground to make it easier for even small children to get in and out of the vehicle. The seats also extend to the edge of the doorway, making it easier to get in and out. There are many small touches like these throughout. We have also been thorough in our consideration for the environment, selecting materials that are seen and touched in the car from a carbon-neutral and sustainable perspective, such as vegan leather and bamboo. The floor mats are made of Triporous™, a rice husk-derived material developed by Sony, which also helps to improve the air quality in the cabin.

MotoishiThe choice to use materials with a low impact on the environment is actually a continuation of the earlier topic of user persona, isn’t it?

(Photo on left) Door panel mockups the team used to consider exterior colors. The exterior color of the 02 is on the left and the 01 is on the right.
(Photo on right) Mockup image of the configuration of interior materials selected out of consideration for the environment.

UedaRight. Although I said the 02 was designed with families in mind, our team defined the user persona as "people who are living in the present, with an eye toward tomorrow." In other words, people who live today to the fullest while also looking ahead to the future for the Earth, which is a continuation of how we live today. The use of sustainable materials is an obvious choice for Sony, but at the same time, it is a conscious attempt to align the product with its anticipated users. Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about what customers are expecting from Sony’s mobility technology. I hope that we can continue to stay in sync with the world and embrace new trends.

"Growing mobility" that evolves to
match its owner’s preferences

KomatsuStrictly speaking, I think what we in the UI/UX team want to achieve is "growth." Mobility that evolves based on people’s tastes, moods, and other indeterminate sensibilities. The most straightforward example of this is the VISION-S THEME that was added to the 02, which allows the user to customize the panel skin, operating sounds, and the acceleration and deceleration noises that are generated in response to accelerator pedal and brake operations. To put it another way, the vehicle "grows" into your preferred style over time.

TamamuraYou could set a theme based on a favorite movie or artist, or use the sensors and AI to make the vehicle learn your tastes and preferences, changing them autonomously—that would be interesting. In fact, the specifications of the 02 make it easy for third-party creators to step in and design it. The vehicle’s room for growth may also generate new opportunities for creation.

MotoishiI sense a major, growing trend toward the concept of the cabin as an entertainment space. That’s why I feel a sense of urgency is required in this kind of software-based evolution.

UedaSpeaking of the user experience in the 02, one thing that surprised me personally, even though I’m a part of Sony, was the synchronized playback of content viewed on the vehicle’s three displays using the BRAVIA Core for VISION-S app. Since the 02 is an SUV, it’s conceivable that a whole family could be watching the same movie together while on the move, and of course, the speakers would be shared by all of them. This means that if the displays are not synchronized properly, the audio will be out of sync when the movie is viewed from certain seats.

KomatsuIt’s really distracting when actors’ voices don’t line up with their mouth movements on screen, isn’t it? We worked with the team at Sony Pictures Entertainment, the Sony Group company that produces films, to adjust the system to handle synchronized playback. We also worked with Sony Interactive Entertainment to make it possible to enjoy PlayStation® games in the cloud, which is another way of saying that the interior is now that much closer to the environment surrounding the TV in the living room.

MotoishiOn the topic of room for growth, another noteworthy feature is the VISION-S Link, which will make it possible to control and check on the vehicle from a smartphone or other device. Its functionality has become more comprehensive, hasn’t it?

TamamuraYou could already lock and unlock the doors and adjust the cabin temperature in the 01, but now you can store driving logs in the cloud, with data such as your speed and acceleration. It’s as if the vehicle’s brain exists on the Internet. We’re currently at the stage where our team is discussing, in parallel with development, what kind of attractive features we can offer once a vast amount of such data is accumulated. I don’t think there are many products that integrate software and hardware at this level, so we’re looking forward to creating a mobility experience that nobody has ever seen before.

KomatsuSony is gradually laying a solid foundation in the mobility sector, and we’re excited to envision new possibilities for evolution and growth based on this foundation. Going forward, I hope to keep collaborating with the VISION-S members, contributing to this evolution from a design perspective.

<Creative Center VISION-S 02
Project Member>

Creative Director Daisuke Ishii, Creative Producer Tohru Kurata, Exterior Design Noriaki Takagi, Exterior Design Yosuke Shimizu,
Exterior Design Takuya Motoishi, Interior Design Arinobu Ueda, Interior Design Henrik Erbeus, CMF Design Linda Lissola,
CMF Design Rikke Gertsen Constein, UI/UX Design Satoshi Akagawa, UI/UX Design Hidehiro Komatsu, UI/UX Design Shinichi Iriya,
UI/UX Design Koga Tamamura, UI/UX Design Junichi Nagahara, UI/UX Design Keisuke Ito, Communication Design Nobuhiro Jogano,
Communication Design Takuma Kohda