The Toyota Pod is truly one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. First shown at the 2001 Tokyo Motor Show, built in collaboration by Sony and Toyota, the Pod is designed to take communication between vehicles and their drivers to a whole new level. It does.
What makes the Pod so wonderful is that it is built around the concept of pleasing and protecting the driver and the passengers by sensing their moods, as well as being able to express its own. This it does in a variety of ways. The Pod is capable of changing its "facial" expression by moving its eyes (headlamps), eyebrows, mouth (grille), and ears (side mirrors). The Pod can also turn different colors, according to its mood. For example, when you approach the Pod, it turns orange, indicating that it is glad to see you. When the Pod is running out of fuel, or has a flat tire, it turns dark blue, meaning that it's sad. Altogether, the Pod is capable of expressing up to ten emotions, including anger (red), and tiredness (light blue). Oh, and here's the best part…..when the Pod is very, very happy, it wags its rear antenna like a tail!
The bond between the driver and the Pod is designed to form over time. As the Pod becomes familiar with a particular driving style, it will alter the feeling of the controls in order to best fit the driver's preferences. It also offers constructive criticism, so that the driver can improve his driving skills. The Pod is constantly aware of the driver's state of mind, so if, let's say, you're in a hurry, it will sense your increased pulse rate and perspiration, and try it's best to relieve your stress. The same care is applied to the passengers, as the Pod is capable of perceiving the mood in the entire car. When the Pod feels that the atmosphere is pleasant and relaxed, and the conversation is flowing nicely, it takes a picture for future memories.
The delicacy and intelligence with which the Pod is able to interact with its passengers makes me perceive it not as a car, but more as a mild and friendly person eager to help. Although it is somewhat unnerving, I think that this is what the creators wished to achieve.
Popular Science Magazine, January 2002
Tokyo Motor Show 2001, Highlights url:http://www.cardesignnews.com/autoshows/2001/tokyo/highlights/h09-toyota-pod.html