Bentley’s Inspirator app designs cars by reading emotions

When virtually everything on a car can be customized, it can present a buyer with an overwhelming array of choices. Between the myriad exterior colors, leather colors, and trim options, that’s the dilemma faced by anyone walking into a Bentley showroom. The rich just have it so hard sometimes …

Now, Bentley has a novel way to help customers configure their cars. Called the Inspirator, it’s an app (iOS only) that uses facial recognition to help determine a person’s preferences. That’s not creepy at all.

Bentley says the Inspirator is meant to help translate a person’s individual style preferences into car-configuration choices. Using a phone or tablet’s camera, the app analyzes a viewer’s emotions based on facial expressions. It tracks 34 “facial landmarks” at 15 frames per second as the viewer looks at different images, Bentley explains.

The images are shown as a continuous film that changes depending on what the viewer reacts to in a positive manner. Positive reactions bring up related images, which is supposed to help divine the viewer’s car-design preferences. The app’s judgments come from an algorithm that’s backed by what Bentley calls the “world’s largest emotion data repository.” It includes 3.4 million faces analyzed in 75 countries, adding up to more than 12 billion “emotional data points.”

The results form a starting point in the car-configuration process, Bentley says. The images are tied to different features and trim options, and the idea seems to be that this allows users to register a more emotionally-resonant response than they would normally get looking at color swatches.

The Inspirator app is only available for the new Bentayga SUV right now, although Bentley plans to let customers use it with other models eventually. Bentley’s first production SUV, it will start wafting into customer driveways next year, at a cost somewhere north of $200,000.

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