You’ve heard of emotional support animals, now get ready for emotional support cars, because that’s precisely what Hyundai has cooked up and donated to a children’s hospital in Barcelona as part of its “Little Big e-Motion” project. Incorporating artificial intelligence to monitor and alter the mood and well-being of the kids who drive it, it’s essentially the most advanced Power Wheel ever made. But unlike most battery-powered kid toys, the mini Hyundai has a much nobler purpose in life: accompanying children from their hospital beds to the treatment room, undoubtedly one of the most stressful journeys for young patients.
Styled to mimic Hyundai’s full-size “45” concept car, this miniature EV version can travel up to approx. 4 mph and features something called Emotion Adaptive Vehicle Control. Created as an academic research collab with MIT’s Media Lab, EAVC uses AI to monitor a driver’s emotion via facial expressions, heart rate, and respiratory rate and adjusts the vehicle’s lighting, climate, music, and fragrance dispensing systems accordingly.
A camera records and analyzes the young driver’s face while a Breathing Exercise Belt uses air pockets to apply light pressure onto the body, apparently reducing anxiety and stabilizing breathing. Heart rate and breathing rate are also measured. All of this data is, of course, also relayed to the adults in the room through a tablet app. The car’s Emotion Adaptive Lighting turns green, yellow, or red depending on the child’s mood while Emotion Adaptive Scent Dispenser sprays a pleasant fragrance in sync with the driver’s breathing. Oh, and the thing can also blow bubbles, a surely welcome function whatever the child’s mood might be at the moment.
As interesting as this all might sound on paper, Hyundai put a video together demonstrating how the mini 45—and its very friendly cartoon on-board assistant—accompanies and helps one patient as she anxiously makes her way to a treatment. They say laughter is the best medicine but, as motoring enthusiasts, you and I both know a good drive in a good car can also have a similar effect.