The first class seats
At what point do car seats become more like furniture?
The new interior concept in the Audi urbansphere is more ‘luxury sitting room’ than car interior, and contains features that will change the way we look at car interiors, says designer Rafael Falkenburger.
29 June, 2022
Thanks to their extensive functions, they are not only an integral part of the vehicle interior, but also sculptures in their own right
Audi Magazine sits down with Audi designer, Rafael Falkenburger, whose specialises in automotive seating, to get his take on how the interior of the urbansphere concept break new ground in the way will sit in vehicles of the future.
Rafael, the new Audi urbansphere concept is a lounge on wheels. Can you still call your contribution a car seat or has it now moved into the realm of furniture design?
Both. Concept cars are increasingly spotlighting seats. That’s because nowadays your time in a car needn’t be focused exclusively on getting from A to B. You can do other things, too. That means creating a homely feeling of wellbeing in the vehicle is a priority. After all, if you spend a lot of time on the road, you want to be able to cocoon in a quiet, private and attractive environment.
Throughout that time, you’re in closest contact with your seat. That’s why the design, ergonomics and comfort it provides are hugely important. I like to use a good pair of shoes as a comparison – no matter how stylish they are, you’ll only enjoy wearing them if they’re comfortable. And the same goes for our seats. Thanks to their extensive functions, they are not only an integral part of the vehicle interior, but also sculptures in their own right. A seat like this would be equally at home in a living room.
Form follows function – is that even truer for seats?
All aspects of our design must enter into a symbiotic relationship within a clear aesthetic framework. That means the seats interact with the interior as a whole and echo the Audi design idiom’s clean lines and commanding surfaces, which also define the exterior look.
To put its function in the simplest terms, the seat should give you everything you need so that you’re more or less unaware of it. It should act like a second skin, cooling you down when you’re too hot and warming you up when you feel cold. In a word, a seat should give you no sensory feedback.
When designing the seats for a new study such as the Audi urbansphere concept, what requirements do you need to meet?
In designing the Audi urbansphere concept, our focus was on the Chinese market. During the co-creation process with Chinese customers, they indicated that they wanted soft, comfortable seats. The challenge was to create an exceptionally comfy seat that is also clearly cast in the Audi mould but – not to overstate the point – doesn’t look like a cloud. For us, soft doesn’t translate as a seat you sink into. Instead, our ambition in creating a first-class seat is to pleasantly surprise customers, first wowing them with its looks and then impressing them with how it’s still comfortable eight hours later.
To put its function in the simplest terms, the seat should give you everything you need so that you’re more or less unaware of it
A personal digital assistant greets them and will, for instance, scan the passenger’s face to determine stress levels based on the size of their pupils
And what seat functions are you treated to once aboard?
Once in their seat, each passenger can manage their own separate comfort zone. They do so with the help of a personal digital assistant who greets them and will, for instance, scan the passenger’s face to determine stress levels based on the size of their pupils. The system then suggests different measures such as mood lighting, music or meditation in Relax mode.
In Relax mode, the seat reclines and the foot rest, which was previously hidden under the seat, slides into position. What’s more, with the privacy collar, occupants can enjoy total me time.
What is the privacy collar?
It’s an adjustable collar element fitted to the rear seats, which occupants can activate and control via eye tracking. This privacy collar creates an additional cocooning effect. If you turn the collar inwards by 25 degrees, you can make phone calls undisturbed, listen to music through the built-in speakers or simply relax in a screened-off environment.
When you want to engage with your fellow passengers, the privacy collar can be turned outwards at the same time as the seat rotates inwards to create a lounge-like setup. Face to face, you can then have a friendly chat and enjoy a drink together. Thanks to the wealth of options and functionalities, we create an immersive experience throughout the urbansphere’s interior.
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