Toyota Concept-I

Toyota’s Yui: Your Perfect Relationship

We all know what we want in a relationship. Understanding. An emotional connection. The anticipation of our needs. Sensitivity to our feelings. Protection. A friendship that deepens over time. Who knew the one we’ve been dreaming about would be named Yui, and would be waiting for us at CES?

By Kimberly Phipps

Technology—the good kind

Picturing the future and technology can be overwhelming, if not downright scary. Think of the movies we’ve seen about how doomsday tech is out to kill us all—The Matrix, AI, Terminator, The Hunger Games, Black Mirror…yikes. So when our cars are becoming a little more like our iPhones every year, and self-driving, autonomous cars are becoming a thing, it’s no wonder that the whole idea can leave us a bit uneasy.

The Future-It’s going to be okay!

CES ToyotaAt CES (the annual grand showcase of upcoming technolgy) today, Toyota unveiled its version of the car of the future—the Toyota Concept-i. But instead of being a cold and weird flying robot car, they’ve deliberately gone completely in the opposite direction. Although it’s definitely futuristic, it has a friendly and welcome demeanor. The car itself, along with the presentation Toyota made to unveil it, is not about the technology. (Although the tech is, admittedly, extremely amazing and cool.) The focus is on the importance of the human that is using it. The words, music and warmth from the multimedia presentation and Toyota’s executives sounded as if it could have been a TED talk about relationships, not a techie gearhead forum.

Yui leans from us. Grows with us. Builds a relationship that’s meaningful and emotional. It learns our preferences and our lifestyle and remembers where we like to go, pays attention to whether we’re happy or sad, and helps in ways that are both big and small, while anticipating our needs and improving our life…Together, we’ve come a long way. So let’s keep going —Bob Carter, Toyota Senior VP of Automotive Operations.

Getting Deep

The philosophical questions Toyota is answering with the new Concept-i and its artificial intelligence operating system, (nicknamed Yui–for UI–user interface) are these: What is the relationship between the vehicles of the future, and the people who drive them? Can technology can be warm and friendly, engaging, and immersive? Cars have become our home on wheels. We connect with our cars, and we build an emotional relationship. What was once an unspoken bond will now progress on grounds of mutual affection. The car has never failed to inspire us, but as we spend more time together, it will grow to truly understand us, knowing what moves us. Kinetic, exciting, and passionate (!) were words used to describe the goal relationship between car and driver.

Wow. That’s…pretty deep and lofty stuff. Most of us would consider ourselves lucky to find a relationship like that with another human in our lifetime–let alone our cars! At CES, there is an ocean of high-tech products aimed at being a substitute for human contact. How heartening to see such a huge mega-company like Toyota use advanced technology to embrace our humanity instead of eliminate the need for it.

The goal of Yui and the Concept-i is that it grows with you, learning your personal driving patterns by using biometrics. It keeps an eye on your heart rate, and your stress level. If it senses that your are feeling tired or stressed, it offers to take over the driving for you. It even remembers things like your favorite color, and what you like on your burger. The more you drive the smarter it gets. Less car and driver, and more like teammates. If we can all find a partner in life that is anything like the one Toyota has made for us, the future is looking happy indeed.

In the meantime, I’ll be looking through my notes on the Toyota Concept-i presentation to get some ideas on tech and human interaction for my eHarmony and Tinder pages. If I find any matches as half as sensitive and considerate as Yui, I’ll be swiping right for sure.

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