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'Racecars with egos': Japan promoter looks to share vehicles' 'feelings' in metaverse

An image of the "artificial ego" concept from Japan Race Promotion's website shows, clockwise from top left, images depicting cheering from fans, the mindset of the driver and the "emotions" of the machine.

TOKYO -- Japan Race Promotion Inc., which manages the Japanese Super Formula Championship, the pinnacle of auto racing in Japan, has announced it has launched research on giving cars "feelings."

    The Tokyo-based company said the research is being conducted in collaboration with University of Tokyo project associate professor Shunji Mitsuyoshi and others. The aim is to create "artificial egos" in vehicles based on driving data, and share this with drivers and spectators through the metaverse, a concept of online connections through augmented reality and virtual worlds. In doing so, they hope to create a new way of enjoying races.

    Based on the data on the engine, steering wheel and brakes while driving, artificial intelligence could be used, for example, to produce a "will" in vehicles, such as "I want to go faster." Then a "synchronization rate" could be calculated and displayed in real time to determine the degree to which drivers and spectators share that feeling. The company says that it will be able to provide other ways of enjoying races besides focusing on speed, such as competing to see how much the racing thrilled people, or allowing people to experience the view from the vehicle through the metaverse.

    At an announcement on the plans in Tokyo, Japan Race Promotion President Yoshihisa Ueno stressed, "When we can visualize machines' feelings and grasp the characteristics of personified cars it will lead to evolution (of races)."

    Project associate professor Mitsuyoshi, who works on artificial ego systems applying the emotional technology of the humanoid robot Pepper, cited the example of Evas, or biomechanical humanoids, in the popular Japanese anime "Neon Genesis Evangelion." "By synchronizing the information that comes from the machine with the driver's voice and physical information, we can tell (in a quantified measure) how much unity there is between the 'horse and rider,' so to speak. And when we can see the degree of synchronization with three factors together (when the audience is included), I expect we'll be able to acquire fans from considerably different genres," he said.

    (Japanese original by Kenji Wada, Business News Department)

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