As one of the largest automotive companies in Europe, Škoda Auto prides itself on making cars that “think smart” and “understand life’s little everyday challenges”. The brand continually strives to improve the connected driving experience by providing different types of in-car mobile apps.
To push the boundaries of interaction between passengers and cars, Škoda approached Bamboo Apps with the idea of a gaming app that could teach kids the basics of driving and traffic rules.
From distraction to education
When it comes to raising brand awareness and reflecting their brand values, Škoda gives high priority to interactive mobile-led experiences, which is why it chose to create not just a connected car app, but a branded mobile game – and so Škoda Little Driver was born.
The fact is that children may occasionally distract a driver when travelling. Škoda supposed that an interactive game, simulating the vehicle's performance in a very realistic way, would be the best recreational activity for long trips so that kids can play while the adult concentrates on driving.
The target users of the apps are kids aged nine to 12, who enjoy playing mobile games and like travelling with parents by car. Another conceptual idea was to add an educational section with number of road safety rules and engaging tests – in other words, gamifying education.
Maintaining brand identity
It was a cornerstone of the project's design that the visuals had to be aligned with Škoda's corporate style and brand identity. As a result, Bamboo says users can easily identify the app as a Škoda-related product within a few seconds of firing it up.
According to Škoda’s conception, each car has different mood, and Bamboo gave them human facial features an extra sense of life. Based on the clean surfaces and dynamic lines of Škoda models, it created four animated toy cars as game characters, each representing the style of a full-size vehicle.
Kids are always keen on building cars they’ve been dreaming about. To challenge the kids brain in designing, Bamboo Apps team provided huge customization capabilities for them. Users can dress up a car in seven colors, pick from three types of rims and three kinds of decorative stickers.The app also features two interiors for each of the four car, which accurately reproduce the look of real Škoda cars.
The main challenge that Bamboo's development team faced was connecting the app to Škoda SmartGate, a system that uses wi-fi to send more than 40 vehicle parameters to the connected device via a special hotspot in the vehicle.
This was achieved by integrating the Škoda API, to make the app fully compatible with the infotainment system of the car. Using SmartGate, Škoda Little Driver can analyse the vehicle parameters and all the driver’s actions. All data is displayed graphically on the screen of users’ tablet in real-time, so that the app user can easily monitor driving variables such as speed, fuel level, brake status or the throttle position.
Based on this SmartGate integration, the child may then repeat the driver’s action – such as turning the steering wheel, speeding up or braking – to earn points. The Bamboo team collaborated closely with professional game designers to ensure the game was as immersive and engaging as possible. To ensure this, the player was rewarded not just for accurate driving but for interacting in a number of other ways, including opening the app daily, watching the tutorial, and finding some hidden controls in the game.
Recognising the needs of its young audience, Škoda Little Driver also has an educational section, Learning Mode. This features road and vehicle safety theory, teaching children road essentials, which they are then tested on with humorous questions and answer options.
Developing with agility
The project lasted for 29 calendar weeks and required a combined effort of five team members. Bamboo utilised a number of the latest technologies during development, including COCOS2d-x, FMOD, C/C++, Java, Android SDK/NDK, JNI and XML. As well as the required functionality, which has been completely implemented, some new elements suggested by Bamboo have also become part of the product.
"During the development of our Little Driver app, Bamboo demonstrated capabilities to deliver a complex product with high level of programming skills and outstanding design," said Mathieu Plauchut, project manager of Škoda app development. "Bamboo did prove that they're able to reach the level of our expectations."
For this project, Bamboo used a management model based on agile methodologies, to align several concurrent branches of design and development. Over 500 tasks were posted and resolved in Jira, which was used as the primary process for the project. Efficient communications with the client via Skype, email, meetings & video conferences and deep technical expertise of our engineers made it possible to deliver the product on time and on budget.
The company has already started work, with its Czech partners, on developing version 2.0 of the Škoda Little Driver app.