M&C Saatchi creates car with a heartbeat for Lexus to showcase cutting edge technology

Lexus is claiming to have created the world’s first car with a heartbeat, as it connects a car with its driver using technology developed by M&C Saatchi and its innovation lab Tricky Jigsaw.

A Lexus RC F coupe has been adapted with the biometric technology which takes information from a heartbeat monitor connected to the driver and sends it to a control board in the rear of the car. This then prompts electro-luminescent paint to display it in an animated pattern on the car’s panels.

The paint contains phosphorescent substances that emit light particles in response to alternating electrical current and is the product of the US-based company, Lumilor.



M&C Saatchi innovation director Ben Cooper told Mumbrella the user experience of the car is quite straightforward.

“They put on a standard heart rate monitor and it wirelessly talks to the car which then displays their heart rate in real time. Then there’s all the smarts behind that,” he said.

Cooper explained the idea was born out of a brief from Lexus to the agency around announcing the new Lexus RC F coupe.

“When the brief came in…we had this idea of changing the conversation around performance, which is kilowatts and noughts to hundreds, and focusing on the fact that this car gets your heart racing.

“There was the idea, but the reality was, does it really get your heart racing?” he said.

Lexus is pushing the technology as “the world’s first car with a heartbeat” with a teaser video directing audiences to a website, where, from July 24, more content showcasing the technology is expected to launch.

Cooper and his team took the car to a closed-off race track in southern NSW in order to find out if there is a correlation between driving a performance car and the driver’s heart beat.

He explained: “We had quite a crude 3D printed little box which pulled data from the car and data from the driver. We then had a professional race car driver take you around and then you got to sit in the driver seat with the professional encouraging you to put your foot down.

“When we got the data back we saw there was a direct correlation between going around a fast corner, putting your foot down and changing gear, and your heart reacting. That gave us the impetuous to continue to see how we’re going to bring this to life.”

They then discovered the Lumilor paint and worked with the team in the US to use it in their vision for the Lexus RC F, building the controller which sends the signals taken from the driver’s heartbeat to the electro-luminescent paint.

“The electro-luminescent paint had never been controlled before, aside from being turned on and off, where as in this instance it can power up and power down and work with the heartbeat so it creates an animation across the vehicle,” Cooper explained.

“The controller in the back reads the driver’s output, which is their heartbeat, and then from there manages the signal to the relevant panel to display the heartbeat.

“It was quite a journey getting this thing to work. I think we’ve blown up around 100 inverters along the way because building something that’s never been built before has its problems,” he quipped.

When asked about what opportunities the technology offers Lexus beyond the launch of the RC F coupe, Cooper said it was about promoting the car firm’s technology and innovation credentials.

“It’s really a signpost of their performance. F is Fuji Speedway, it’s their equivalent to the AMG M badge, it’s really about a signal towards that,” he said. “It’s about man and machine, it’s not about RC F on its own. It’s really about Lexus’ innovation and technology and the fact their cars put the driver first,” he said.

While Cooper did admit they don’t know how the technology will be rolled out into the rest of the Lexus business he said it was about “demonstrating the tech and innovation credentials they have”.

“What’s exciting here is people are quite fascinated by the connection of human to car where as most car technologies are pushing the driver away, in the sense of autonomous driving and parking assist.

“Where to now remains to be seen but the big thing here is Lexus is brave, courageous and they’re really about the driver and this is a signpost to all of that.”

The technology is the second big push out of M&C’s lab under the direction of Ben Cooper and follows on from the Cannes Lions success for its previous lab experiment Optus’ Clever Buoy.

“We have a lot of stuff in development but this is our next proof that we’re not a one-trick pony and we’re fully backing creative technology and user experience,” Cooper said.

“We’re continuing to push the boundaries of what we can do and the great thing is you learn so much from these projects.”

When asked on the status of Clever Buoy which picked up a number of awards at Cannes, including a coveted Titanium Lion, Cooper said the plan is to push the device into live trials in October.

“The buoy’s changed an awful lot. The actual buoy now has four sonar heads rather than the one which was in the proof of concept. What that means is we have a 250m span which is significant and means it can really create a perimeter in a beach environment. That iteration of the build is more than underway, it’s basically already here,” he said.

“We’ve also been training software significantly, feeding in shark images and getting it to have species recognition. There’s a lot going on.

“The exciting news is it doesn’t stop now. Cannes was so exciting for us… getting the recognition that it did, but ultimately the job has always been about getting this in the ocean.”

Miranda Ward


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