Ford, one of the largest mobility companies on the planet, wanted to demonstrate the inherent value to the driver’s wellbeing when they own a performance car. Their agent, Clarion, approached us to achieve this. They challenged us with measuring the ‘Buzz Moments’ experienced while driving – the emotional highs at key events such as acceleration, entering an open road, etc.
These Buzz Moments needed to be compared with other forms of excitement outside the driving environment. And finally the Buzz data was to be used to control visualisations in a tricked-out car, to generate a PR story about the value of owning a Ford performance car.
We took 16 ordinary people out onto the UK roads, each in one of three Ford performance cars: Mustang GT, Focus RS and Focus ST. We measured their emotional journey through the drive by fusing data from their heart rate, skin conductance, breathing rate and skin temperature (from wearable sensors), with facial coding data (from camera) and a range of contextual data including speed and acceleration.
The same participants then took part in at least one of eight other enjoyable activities, for comparison. These were:
- Kissing a loved one
- Meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant
- Watching a football game
- Salsa dancing
- Watching an episode of Game of Thrones
- High street shopping
In the final phase, we took our Buzz Moment algorithm to a test track, where our project partners – Designworks, working with Hirsch & Mann – had fitted out a Ford Focus RS to be able to visualise the emotional data in real time. The car included:
- High-performance Zotac VR GOgaming PC.
- 110 x 500-lumen daylight-bright light strips.
- 82 display panels with 188,416 individually addressable LEDs.
Our software recorded the driver’s heart rate and GSR (skin conductance), fed that data up to our Synsis emotion AI engine in the cloud, which then fed back emotional insights (ie. Buzz Moments) less than 200 milliseconds after they occurred. These moments were used to control the visual displays all over the car.
The project succeeded in two key areas of innovation. Firstly, it demonstrated the capability to measure driver emotions in real time, identify key moments of emotional ‘buzz’, and feed those data insights back for a better understanding of driver physiology and psychology.
With the kind of information this study gathered, taken from realistic scenarios on the move, companies like Ford can develop more engaging and personalised human-machine interaction. Measuring the emotions of drivers and passengers can help automakers to train their vehicles to respond in various appropriate ways. These responses range from life-saving safety features to custom entertainment settings. Learn more in our Mobility section.
Secondly, in addition to the technological insights, the project was a highly successful PR opportunity for Ford. Journalists were invited to try the Ford Focus RS ‘Buzz Car’ while their emotional response was measured by our system. The news release generated worldwide coverage across tech, mainstream and social channels, on- and offline, including 3.5M video views on Facebook. After the the initial UK launch, the Buzz Car was taken on the road for PR events in Spain, Italy, Germany and France.
Working with Ford, we have taken another step together on the road to empathic vehicles, fitting nicely into the company’s strategic objectives for the future of transportation.