We all expect concept cars to turn heads at Tokyo Motor Show 2011, but buzz bubbled over during the unveiling of Mitsubishi Electric's conceptual EMIRAI automotive interface. Projected to be deployable in about ten years, the key innovation is the curved, touch-screen rear projection display.
Rear projection displays were used instead of LCDs because they allow for extreme curves, surrounding a driver so information is always visible to them. Rather than taking the car hands-free like in the forever-to-be-referenced movie, Minority Report, the EMIRAI system encourages intelligent interaction. It has a wheel-mounted interface the designers hope is intuitive — only the buttons you need at any given time will be raised and active. Sliding one's fingers across the 18 buttons also scrolls the display.
Other notable bells and whistles include the likes of biometric readers with infrared cameras and Doppler sensors to measure facial temperatures and heart rate. Not just for telling the user how they are feeling, these sensors can be used to initiate pre-determined customized settings such as seat and mirror positionings for alternate drivers, and possibly even keyless ignition.
Users can also write on the touchscreens, and in the future for electric vehicles, program in the sound of engine noise to alert other vehicles of your presence. Folks in the back aren't forgotten either as Mitsubishi has included curved 3D seatback displays, which are also touchscreens. No 3D glasses required.
The team at Mitsubishi Electric seems to have figured out a few things. First, get the manufacturers excited. A spokesperson noted:
"At Mitsubishi Electric, we suggest individual technologies to all kinds of car makers. But unless we show how these technologies can actually be used, manufacturers don't have a clear image of them, or understand what level of performance they've reached. So we suggest specifically how technologies can be used, by enabling people to experience those technologies for themselves."
Given the buzz about EMIRAI, it seems they've done just that.
Second, but perhaps most importantly, people still want to actually interact with their cars — just in more innovative ways. The art of driving is still a core value for many buyers.
Check out a demo of the EMIRAI in action.