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Driving Happiness

While Knight Industries Two Thousand (KITT) may have been ahead of its time, car companies are turning to neuroscience and artificial intelligence technology to boost your positive emotions behind the wheel and beyond. 

Recently, Toyota Motor Corporation unveiled a palm-size companion robot to keep you company on and off the road. The Kirobo Mini, which is now available in Japan, is designed to read human emotions—like delight, pleasure, surprise or anger—from our facial expressions. Kirobo Mini will ask if you are sad or comment that you look happy today. If we drive too fast, it may tell us to slow down. Kirobo, which is the Japanese word for hope, eventually adapts to your personality and remembers conversations.

According to Toyota, more than 5,000 Kirobo Minis have been sold, and the reception to these cuddly bots has been positive. Some have even accepted Kirobo Mini as part of the family. “We did receive some feedback that Kirobo Mini encouraged and increased conversation between couples who gradually had less conversation after their children had grown up and left home,” according to a spokesperson with Toyota.

Researchers at Ford are also trying to enhance the driving experience by tapping in to our emotions. In a recent study, Ford teamed up with neuroscience and bio-emotion research company Sensum to see how driving compared to other peak excitement activities. Researchers found that participants driving in a Ford Focus RS loaded with artificial Intelligence emotion reading technology had 2.1 buzz moments during a typical commute. Only a ride on a roller coaster gave more moments of intense excitement.