Taking a ride on the “Ottobahn”

Early 2015, the three cofounders of CarGlass, Stanley, Yu, and David, came to our studio with the concept for an augmented-reality app to serve personalized news, information, and tips to drivers.

We led them through our discovery workshop, and arrived at their key differentiator and the principal focus on which their company would be based:

Knowing what information the user wants and needs.

This was the promise that CarGlass would deliver. It would be “the smartest radio on wheels” and CarGlass would eventually become Otto Radio, shedding the initial concept of augmented reality.

After nine months consulting for Otto, I took a leave from 2ejk to work with Otto full-time as their head of product. It was an amazing learning experience to be on the inside. Below are some highlights.

Meet Otto, your driving companion.

We decided early on, that the app would be personified–branded a virtual driving companion–that would anticipate your needs and provide a genuine experience during your morning and afternoon commutes.

Through an iterative process, we arrived at “Otto” your friendly neighborhood tire and our branding was inspired by the playful Waze driving app.

We derived “Benjamin,” our initial persona and created an introductory video to help introduce Otto and the problem we were solving.

A Focussed User Experience

While the branding was playful, we wanted the user experience to be focussed and efficient, delivering personalized content to the driver with minimal interaction.

After downloading, onboarding was quick and easy. No sign up required. Just enter a few interests and Otto would do the rest.

From there, an initial broadcast was prepared and the driver could experience Otto right away. On subsequent drives, Otto would learn the driver’s habits and present “The Big Green Button” that would launch an interesting broadcast timed perfectly to his or her morning or afternoon commute.

We enjoyed some early success and to this day consistently receive 4+ star ratings on the App Store. Here’s the one-million-stories-served infographic that was sent to our loyal listeners.

Otto Grows Up

Despite our early success, we realized that our commuter use-case limited our reach and excluded the growing “podcatcher” community. We wanted to engage our users how and where they wanted to listen.

Our next design challenge was a seamless transition from a dedicated commuter app to an audio platform.


While our customers loved the many faces of Otto, a friendly tire no longer fit our vision nor did our Waze-like design.

After several attempts, we arrived at a modernized logo that maintained Otto’s friendly tone (smile/smirk) but in a way that immediately projected the concept of an audio platform (radio waves).

Otto Everywhere

If you’re going to be the defacto spoken-word audio platform, you need to be where your users are.

We challenged our team to develop solutions not only for iOS and Android, but for Web, CarPlay and Android Auto and they delivered.

A Powerful Discovery Platform

Most importantly, how was the user experience affected by this transition?

Thankfully, we were able to continue to satisfy our commuters with the single-tap, personalized radio station they had grown to love (now called Radio YOU). And, we went a step farther by providing a dedicated All-news Radio station and stations that generated broadcasts around central themes–True Crime Radio anyone?

What was now different, and more powerful, was a comprehensive marketplace populated by both algorithmic and human-curated titles, that allowed our users to explore at their own pace, mark favorites, and create a playlist of their own.

This change not only gave our podcatchers more control over their content, it also gave us more insight into their interests which we could in turn feed into our personalized broadcasts–a virtuous cycle of personalization.

What’s on Your Otto Radio?

We launched an ad campaign around Otto’s flexibility. Every person can tailor their listening experience to their specific interests.

Where is Otto today?

At the time of this writing, Otto is going strong, increasing daily active users and scoring a 4.7+ rating on the App Store.

Some exciting enhancements are just around the corner, so we look forward to Otto’s continued growth to becoming a household name.

Check out Otto on the App Store or Play Store.