Friday, April 20, 2012

Is There Such a Thing as Mood Ring Technology?

Mood Ring Toyota

Ah, the mood ring. A popular novelty item since 1975, which met the same fate as other fads of the time, such as the pet rock and bell bottom jeans. Ever wonder how it worked? Alright, I'll share with you- it was basically a liquid crystal thermometer that you could wear on your finger, affixed with a gemstone of some sort. The stone would change color based on the body temperature of the person wearing it, which was meant to indicate your overall mood. Sound silly?

Well, not if you're a designer at Toyota! They've been incredibly interested in this concept, and have been working on a mood-sensing technology that could be implemented into cars. This project of theirs has been around since about 2006, though they've just recently claimed they've created a working model to demonstrate the technology. If all goes well, some of the mechanics they're creating could be featured in cars within the next five to six years.

How this technology actually works is pretty complicated. Needless to say, you won't be putting on a special ring that you leave in your glovebox. According to Toyota, there are sensors in the car and around the dashboard which take readings from 238 different points on a driver's face. The data is then calculated to determine what sort of emotional state the driver is in, or what they are doing (such as checking a cell phone, or putting on sunglasses, etc). The system can then take safety measures, such as alerting a driver who is tired, or even going as far as steering and braking the car automatically to avoid an accident! Most recently, the designers at Toyota have added the functionality for the sensors to detect minute details, such as moving your hand to change the dial on the radio station, or turning your head to check for oncoming traffic before changing lanes.

Much like their other crazy, futuristic sounding project, the Fun-Vii, this is a concept we'll definitely have to see to believe. However, with the advent of the Google driver-less car, I have a good feeling that cars of the near future will go a long way in being able to keep drivers safer by alerting them and assisting them with maintaining control of their vehicle.

Would you trust a mood sensor to assist you in driving? Or would you sooner put up pink fuzzy dice in your mirror?

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