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Revealed: How Little Big e-Motion Works


Here are the researcher who developed the emotion recognition technology and the designer of Little Big e-Motion revealing the characteristics of the new technology and the meaning contained in the design.

Hyundai Motor Group introduced Little Big e-Motion for child patients struggling in hospitals. Mobility featured in the video demonstrates a change in the daily lives of child patients suffering from anxiety and boredom in hospitals based on Emotion Adaptive Vehicle Control (EAVC) technology that detects people’s emotions. How does Little Big e-Motion understand children’s emotions and reduce stress? Jinmo Lee, senior researcher at the UX Strategy Team that developed EAVC technology, and Beomsoo Cho, team leader at Hyundai Design Center, who was in charge of designing Little Big e-Motion, talk about the vehicle.

Jinmo Lee, senior researcher at the UX Strategy Team, explains the characteristics of Little Big Emotion, which has applied emotion recognition vehicle control technology.

Q. I was told that it is a mobility for children suffering from sick beds. How did this project start?

Jinmo Lee, Senior Researcher | Since the spring of 2019, as part of a project-based joint research, we have been utilizing emotion-detecting technology for sound and tactile feedback to provide better sensibility to the drivers. At that time, a staff from a hospital in Spain had a chance to look into our research. They had small electric vehicles for child patients to relieve their stress, and they offered us an opportunity to apply our technology to their vehicles. I thought it would be a good idea to test what we had in a different field. Then the R&D Strategy Office, who thought this could work out, decided to support the project, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Labs and Spanish Children’s Hospital (Sant Joan de Deu) all collaborated to start developing Little Big e-Motion.

Little Big e-Motion helps healing child patients with EAVC and various new technologies.

Q. What is the biggest difference from ordinary small electric vehicles for children?

Jinmo Lee, Senior Researcher | The main difference is the therapeutic feature. A regular children’s electric vehicle is simply a toy that gives fun to children, whereas Little Big e-Motion is a therapy car to which emotion-detecting technology is applied. Child patients experience extreme stress or fear while receiving treatment at the hospital. Therefore, we applied bio-signal measurement technology that can send emotion and physical state to Little Big e-Motion, and introduced various entertainment features to help children lighten up their mood. For example, even when a child moves to the operating room, using Little Big e-Motion instead of a hospital bed will relieve anxiety. Little Big e-Motion helps convert a painful treatment process into an enjoyable game.

Senior researcher Jinmo Lee said that they applied various sensing technologies to understand children’s emotions.

Q. How does EAVC technology detect children’s emotions?

Jinmo Lee, Senior Researcher | Human bodies react in various ways based on their emotions, and the easiest way is through facial expressions. Little Big e-Motion recognizes the child’s face with a camera installed in front of it and identifies the emotional state according to the expression. Also, when a person is being nervous, breathing becomes faster or heart rate changes. Little Big e-Motion measures heart and respiratory rate through a monitoring sensor mounted on a seatbelt. In addition, the stress level can be measured through a wearable device that analyzes skin conductivity.

The emotional-responsive ambient lighting changes the color based on the emotional changes of the child patient.

Q. How does the vehicle react to children’s emotions?

Jinmo Lee, Senior Researcher | First of all, Emotion Adaptive Lighting, which shines inside and outside the vehicle, acts as a mirror to reflect the child’s mind. If the child feels frightened or the stress level is high, the external light illuminates a red LED to inform the surrounding medical staff or caregivers of the child’s anxious mental state. The indoor ambient light also serves as an entertainment feature. For example, when a children’s song is played, the light flickers to the music, creating a pleasant atmosphere.

The special seat belt that includes breathing exercises induces stable breathing through the air pockets expanding and contracting.

Also, Little Big e-Motion responds in two ways to treat a nervous child. The first is through cuddling; the special seat belt that includes breathing exercises wraps around the child. The seat belt around the body helps the child patient stabilized by expanding and contracting, like a pet dog breathing in your arms. In addition, the rhythmic movement of the seatbelt leads the child patient to breathe more peacefully.

The emotion-based fragrance spraying device helps a child patient’s mood change using a sweet scent.

The second is that it can boost joy to children. Whenever the child laughs or smiles, the camera recognizes the child’s facial expressions; and when the laughter gauge fills up to the maximum level, it performs sound and lighting effects, or the Emotion Adaptive Scent Dispenser sprays a sweet candy scent. It is one of the effective ways to change the mood through positive reinforcement.

Q. What was considered for child patients in hospital?

Jinmo Lee, Senior Researcher | We thought about ways to stay happy in a cold hospital from the children’s perspective; a cute-looking character appears on the touch screen applied in front of the steering wheel to encourage children’s participation, and sometimes they recommend certain actions or make jokes that can make children laugh. In addition, it contains a lot of entertainment features that children will like, such as soap bubbles, wind, fart sounds, and lighting effects.

In order to develop Little Big e-Motion, cooperation with various organizations inside and outside Hyundai Motor Group has been made.

Q. How did you collaborate to develop Little Big e-Motion?

Jinmo Lee, Senior Researcher | Many departments and institutions have worked closely to develop Little Big e-Motion. Hyundai Motor Group led the joint research through industrial/academic cooperation, and the Vehicle Performance Development Center co-developed EAVC technology and other detailed new technologies with MIT Media Lab; MIT Media Lab has an environment optimized for integrated research. Since EAVC technology is implemented through multiple complex technologies, such flexible research environment of MIT Media Lab was very helpful. Collaboration inside Hyundai Motor Group was executed as well; the Hyundai Design Center participated in designing Little Big e-Motion. Above all, the fact that such development could contribute to society became a powerful motivation. Thanks to this, I think that a lot of people were able to sympathize with our intention and give help even across the countries.

Little Big e-Motion will be used in children’s hospitals for about a year.

Q. How will Little Big e-Motion be used in the future?

Jinmo Lee, Senior Researcher | Little Big e-Motion is more than just a single event. As shown in the campaign video, the vehicle will not stop helping those in the children’s hospital in Barcelona in Spain get better. It also plans to collect emotional data of child patients and analyze emotional changes responding to each feature, and use them for the development of the company’s unique features for child passengers in the future.

Q. How can EAVC technology be used in automobiles in the future?

Jinmo Lee, Senior Researcher | Although the newly introduced EAVC technology is focusing heavily on child patients, it can also be used for adult drivers and passengers. A typical example is Ambient Media, a technology that naturally reduces people’s stress through subtle stimulation. Ambient media reduces stress on passengers and gradually stabilizes mental state by using frequencies that can induce deep breathing for auditory, tactile, and visual stimulation. It also works so quietly that it is difficult for humans to detect it, preventing the driver from getting distracted. Various entertainment functions for children are also available. If these could be applied to a real vehicle, it is expected to entertain child passengers in long-distance driving.

Beomsoo Cho, Team Leader of Hyundai Design Center in charge of designing Little Big e-Motion

Q. What are the key design features of Little Big e-Motion?

Beomsoo Cho, Team Leader | The Little Big e-Motion presented in this video was completed based on the Hyundai 45 EV Concept. Although it is smaller in size, it still holds the key design features of the 45 EV concept – the cube-shaped Kinetic Pixel Lamp and the dynamic side character line to begin with. In particular, the actually-working kinetic pixel lamp would make it interesting enough to encourage children’s curiosity. In addition, the unique charm of the 45 EV concept – such as a dynamic fastback style and large wheels and tires – was reflected in the Little Big e-Motion.

Little Big e-Motion holds the characteristic design elements of the 45 EV concept.

Q. Why does Little Big e-Motion have the same design elements that 45 EV concept houses?

Beomsoo Cho, Team Leader | The 45 EV concept contains Hyundai Motor’s 45-year history and spirit of challenge, as well as the future blueprint of Hyundai Motor Company. It is also a concept car that fully shows how automobiles evolve into spaces of life beyond just modes of transportation. In other words, the 45 EV concept was regarded to fit the purpose of this project the most that would connect Hyundai Motor’s past and future.

Little Big e-Motion inherited the design of the 45 EV concept that contains Hyundai Motor’s history and their future vision.

In addition, Little Big e-Motion is redefining the meaning of mobility that is active in various environments, not just as a means of transportation. This is what Hyundai tries to pursue, and this is what 45 EV concept also symbolizes; this is why Little Big e-Motion has the same design elements of the 45 EV concept.

The lines are smoothened, featuring light pastel tone shades for child patients.

Q. What was considered for children especially?

Beomsoo Cho, Team Leader | Most importantly, we thought that the ones who use cars are not adults, but children. Therefore, emotional technologies for children were carefully applied so that they can function most effectively. In addition, for the safety of children, the external sharp lines are smoothly refined, and a light pastel color is to make children feel comfortable. In addition, the detailed design elements were carefully considered so that children can feel safe while riding a car.

Little Big e-Motion contains the possibility of future mobility and the vision of Hyundai Motor Group.

Q. What did you want to emphasize the most while working on this project?

Beomsoo Cho, Team Leader | Hyundai Motor Group is trying to become a Smart Mobility Solution Provider for electrification in the automotive industry. The key is that it can positively contribute to society through future mobility and new technologies. This is in line with the ‘Progress for Humanity’ pursued by Hyundai Motor Group.

Jinmo Lee, Senior Researcher | This campaign video introduces a special mobility experience that can be provided to children suffering from hospital beds. Little Big e-Motion will transform the fearful experience of moving between the hospital rooms into a fun game. In addition, it will be an opportunity to confirm the possibility of mobility, which can be even used in hospitals, away from the roads. In the future, Hyundai Motor Group will continue to provide special experiences to customers, with new technologies and mobility without space limits. We hope that these small cars for children will be the first step towards a new era of mobility.