COGNITIVE PSYCHOLOGY LENDS 'HUMAN FACE' TO BIKE
December 19 2005.
 Honda boosts visibility by raising recognition factor for oncoming motorists


The face-like design of the motorcycle's front fairing draws the attention of drivers of oncoming vehicles.
Nature's shapes and structures give great inspiration for effective designs. One unusual example is motorcycles.
Honda Motor Co. unveiled the next-generation bike in September. It is fitted with the latest high-tech safety gear, but the most striking feature of the bike is its front fairing and headlights, which are designed to resemble a human face.
The engineers at the automaker's product development unit, Honda R&D Co., concluded that a face-like image would draw the most attention from drivers of oncoming vehicles.
The headlights, the paint scheme around them and the wide-open "mouth" remind people of the face of a Kabuki actor or the hannya masks used in Noh to express the fury of a woman who turns into a demon. Apparently...
Compared with four-wheeled vehicles, motorcycles are perceived as traveling slower than they actually are by other motorists. At the same time, drivers of cars and trucks often fail to keep enough distance between their vehicles and motorcycles. To avoid accidents due to these miscalculations, the ASV (Advanced Safety Vehicle) project engineers at Honda R&D decided to make use of cognitive psychology, which demonstrates that the right hemisphere of the brain reacts faster to the image of a human face than to any other image.
In tests of the new design, the proportion of drivers of oncoming vehicles who could recognize the motorbike, whose front part is designed like a human face, increased by 43%. But psychologists and neurophysiologists were skeptical about the effectiveness of the design. "It just seemed too bold to me. I wanted to run away from it," recalled a research engineer at Honda R&D. To make the "face" as prominent as possible on the motorbike, whose frontal width is limited, the "eyes" were modified into slanted ones with long slits at the outer corners. Oh yes...
After trying 50 design patterns, including the faces of a rat and a space alien, (naturally enoughof course), the Honda R&D designers settled on a face with eyebrows that function as blinkers. The blue and white beams of the headlights can alter the motorbike's "facial expression."
Motorcycles are often designed to resemble the cool and aggressive images of sharks or predatory birds, but the ASV-3 motorbike is a rare example of a design concept based on cognitive psychology. Although the model will not be commercialized in the foreseeable future, the reaction from Honda's competitors was still quite strong.

Source: Nikkie Net