by Sam Livingstone
Developed in association with Sony, Toyota's Pod is a car with an exterior aesthetic that conforms to few automotive design norms, being almost symetrical front to rear and a having a meek and austere visual identity. But the most peculiar aspect of this vehicle is that it is designed to express, and respond to, the changing emotions of the user.
The Pods name is behind the concept that aims to 'gently envelope and protect the cars occupants'. This it does with four individual seats that move into three basic positions; to face towards the b-pillarless aperture when both side doors are open to welcome its users to the vehicle, to face forwards when driving and to face inwards towards each other to communicate and socialise.
This friendly concept thinking begins to border on being slightly Telly Tubby with some of other features which are more bizarre that those of any other show car at Tokyo. The most obvious of these is the horse shoe shaped lights that dominate the front view of the car and radiate specific colours according to the mood of the vehicle.
They are orange when the car is happy, for example when the user approaches Pod. They are dark blue when it is sad such as when it has run out of fuel. When it registers sharp braking or changing of direction they shine red with anger. And they are light blue when it is left parked and becomes sad. At the rear the car goes one stage further off centrefield with a tail-like antenna that wags according to its state of emotional well being!
Plus it take photographs of its occupants when it judges the feeling of the conversation will make a good memory to record. Even its door mirrors are described in the press pack as being the cars ears. Truly peculiar.
That the car reacts in its expressions to how it is being used in such a literal and rather naive way may seem a rather contrived notion for a vehicle. But behind this lies a deeper idea that cars long ago satisfied the functional needs of their users to a exceptionally developed level of competence, particularly when compared to almost any other product type.
To conciously focus on delivering on the emotional side of the car to vehicle relationship, a relationship on many levels that borders on interpersonal, is a logical next step for future cars that the Pod explicitly draws our attention to.
Takamotchi pets might have seemed a silly idea to many a few years ago, but peoples desire to interact with something that approximates humanistic behaviour made this product a huge international hit. And just like the Pod, Takamotchi pets were born in Tokyo.