Home » Pixel Art Appreciation, Volvo Style: Cold Start

Pixel Art Appreciation, Volvo Style: Cold Start

Cs Volvopixel

Yesterday some friends of mine came by to get my opinion on a 2013 Volvo XC90 they are considering buying; overall I liked it. It has a tailgate, after all! But, strangely, what really caught my eye was on the small center stack display of the infotainment system, where some Volvo designer did the best they could to render the car’s portrait in meaty, chunky pixels, and I for one love the clunky result.

I’m not exactly sure of the resolution of the screen, but I bet it’s something like 120×80 or around that. It’s something close to an early Nintendo Game Boy, with its square 160×144 pixel screen, but lacks a crucial quality the Game Boy had: grayscale.

A Game Boy could do four shades of gray (well, really shades of kinda baby poop green) but this Volvo screen can only turn pixels on or off, which makes the image even more impressive, with a lot of clever dithering effects to get some kind of shading.

This screen was kind of backwards even in 2013 – even my wife’s 2010 VW Tiguan has a full-color LCD center stack screen – but I’m still glad to see a reminder of the days when putting a recognizable image on a screen was an actual challenge, not just something easy and expected.

Here’s to you, uncredited early-to-mid-2000s Volvo UX designer!

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15 Responses

  1. I was working in that department at Volvo at the time. Incredible hands-on pixel by pixel work by my colleagues. And as I remember, the software for doing that was not even graphical but pure text based 🙂

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    2. I don’t need/want screens inside my cars, but it does feel like an inevitability, so I totally get you (not happy about it though, screens have no place in cars IMO – I’ll make an exception for backup camera screens for people who aren’t comfortable with parallel parking). But things like bluetooth audio and USB charging are nice to have, so I just bought a very cheap modern stereo for my Renault 4, because I’m just sick and tired that power banks and bluetooth speakers have become such an integral part of any longer trip I make.

  2. I could use a more dedicated rear end of the car on the drawing, so you can see it’s a proper square wagon and not some kind of peasant hatchback’y Subaru or something. After all that’s why anybody would buy a Volvo, because it’s a big square wagon.

    Rode in of these as a passenger o a long trip to the Bremen Motor Show and back, and I was very fixated on the two zone climate control and getting it just right for my side, so I didn’t notice it then. So thanks.

  3. My 2010 XC70 has the same thing but I feel like the rendering is better there than what is shown above. The other neat thing about the display is about 4 years ago the screen started to have some dead pixels but then it remarkably healed itself.

    1. If the bad pixels were in a stripe, prolly a flakey connection between the display and the board. The sort of thing that (if you can get at it) unplugging and replugging can fix. Or in your case, normal vibration, though that’s just as likely to make things worse. Sometimes just beating stuff up fixes it.

  4. My XC90 has the same thing, and it’s a nice little “Hello” compared to the (arguably overdone) booting animations of modern infotainment systems. Just load already!

  5. I think that screen is ripe for a Doom game conversion. Though I like Game Boy, obliterating Cacodemons in a pixelated screen would be more satisfying.

  6. I noticed that the passenger side headlights look kind of googly-eyed, and now it’s all I can see, and I chuckle every time I look. Which isn’t fair, because this is some heroic design work.

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