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Toyota's Smart Insect car adapts, 'learns' and says hello

Posting in Cities

Toyota's latest concept car offering goes further than electricity or apps -- through face recognition and Kinect technology.

Revealed at the CEATEC Japan 2012, the Smart Insect (which stands for "Information Network Social Electric City Transporter") is an electricity-powered one-seater car that has been shrunk down to cope with urban environments.

Complete with an array of features that probably appeal to the tech-savvy, if you approach the car, it uses facial-recognition software to recognize you as its owner. It's own personal brand of greeting you is to flash the front lights, and deliver a mildly-creepy 'Hello' to you.

The Smart Insect isn't quite finished verbally communicating with you there. Toyota claims that the car's "virtual agent" connects to the owner's smartphone-based navigation system, and can learn how to set a course based on a driver's spoken instructions. This is managed through a large interior screen which connects to Toyota's cloud-based Smart Center.

Where does Microsoft's Kinect technology come in? Forget keys; instead, wave your hands about a bit and the doors will swing open for you.

Using cloud computing, Toyota's Smart Insect is apparently able to connect to mobile devices and home -- which means that you can monitor your air conditioning or security while on the move. In order to sync with the driver's mood and behavior, the car can connect to a smartphone through a charge pad, and apparently can predict when the user wants to leave the vehicle -- using body sensors to monitor hand and arm movements and open the door automatically in response.

Currently, the Smart Insect is only a concept -- with no current plans to send the car into production. However, it does demonstrate the potential that Kinect technology has for the automotive industry, and no doubt we will see such advances commercially in the future.

— By on October 10, 2012, 5:23 AM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure