Akita is a pleasant companion for your travels. It responds to your needs and emotions as you respond to its.

Akita was created in response to the question, “What could the future driverless car be like?” With Akita, the car takes on a personality of a pet, augmenting the way people may think about their cars.

Imagine a scenario where you’re driven to an interview. You’re nervous, and unconsciously squeeze the car’s armrest. Akita responds to this nervousness, playing gentle sounds and providing a back massage. Patting the armrest, you thank Akita for comforting you, and Akita finishes the massage.

Akita, being connected to your GPS and calendar data, can also sense when you might be heading to an exciting event, such as dinner with a good friend. As you reach your destination, Akita makes an excited melody and pokes playfully at your back. You thank Akita and confirm that you’ve arrived by patting the armrest, and Akita mellows out from your response.

We envision Akita to be present in all parts of the car, but for this two-day project, we prototyped inputs in the armrest and outputs in the back rest. The armrest contains a squeeze sensor (a button) and a pat sensor (a capacitive sensor). The seat contains a set of six vibration motors positioned to target sensitive parts of the passenger’s back, near the spine. These motors can be programmed in patterns to generate specific sensations. Squeezing the armrest turns on the vibration motors in a massage pattern; patting the armrest turns off any vibrations.