Meet Yui, your virtual driving buddy
Most automakers promise that their future autonomous cars will be intelligent enough to navigate through traffic and get you to your destination quickly and safely, but not many are focused on the personal relationship between man and machine. That’s the subject Toyota’s CES concept, the Concept-i, attempts to tackle.
The Concept-i was designed by Toyota’s CALTY Design Research wing in Newport Beach, Calif. The goal was to develop artificial intelligence for a vehicle so that it would be able to learn its occupants’ habits and anticipate their wants and needs. The Concept-i was designed to be warm, welcoming, and fun. Toyota calls this philosophy “kinetic warmth.”
An advanced AI system builds a relationship with the occupant that Toyota calls “meaningful and human,” able to measure emotion through a host of different technologies. The AI, nicknamed “Yui,” is represented by a graphical blob on a screen in the dash. Toyota says Yui is designed to “communicate across cultures to a global audience,” though in a video all we get to see it do is bounce and change shape. Yui is also manifested in the exterior, able to wink the car’s headlights and appear on the doors to greet passengers as they approach.
The concept is designed with automation in mind, but can also be operated manually. A light display at the front of the car communicates whether the car is in manual or automated mode, while a display at the rear indicates when the vehicle is turning. When in manual mode, the AI continuously monitors driver attention and relays messages through visual and haptic stimuli.
Some of the ideas presented by Concept-i are interesting. Once autonomous vehicles can reliably get us from point A to point B, the next step will be making them personable, fun, and desirable. Having a virtual driving companion like Yui might appeal to the generation raised by Siri, Cortana, and Alexa.