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Cars That Feel

This is a proactive piece of work that came from a desire to submit something for the VIVID festival of light, held annually each winter in Sydney. Every year VIVID puts out a call for submissions from artists, so we ran an internal creative competition at Soap to come up with ideas for VIVID to promote brands we had relationships with. One of the brands we were working with at the time was Toyota – and I took inspiration from the tagline 'Oh what a feeling!'.

It got me thinking – what if cars could feel?

The idea was to create an innovative light, animation and sound installation in which cars, regarded as inanimate objects, come to life and interact with people.


The idea made it through the first written round of submissions and we were invited to pitch it to the VIVID board. We got the idea up – they loved it! So we started conversations with Toyota to see if they would come to the party. After some back-and-forth, Toyota agreed to give us some vehicles and a modest budget for development.

The playful installation transformed three different Prius models into sentient beings, each with its own distinctive personality. Peter the Prius was always joking around; Carly the Prius C loved selfies; and Vicky the Prius V was great at entertaining kids.


Each car had stylised faces projected on the windscreens and they responded emotionally through light, animation and sound based on how VIVID visitors treated them. 


To transform the vehicles into Cars That Feel, it took six internal wide throw BenQ projectors installed inside each vehicle and 3M film applied to all windscreens to provide a surface to display each car's feelings. 


Each car also had a custom lighting rig underneath with 5 metres of high intensity LEDs that changed colour dynamically or on demand.


The ‘smart stuff’ behind it all was a custom app we developed to run on iPads using a Raspberry Pi / Arduino controller to send commands to each car. 


Each car had a “human handler” controlling their car like a puppet. We called it the “Wizard of Oz” effect. We took turns controlling the cars throughout the VIVID festival. Festival visitors were so engrossed in the experience no one even saw the puppeteers.

My Role:

  • Idea

  • Creative Direction

  • Art Direction

  • Puppeteering

The Results:

  • 1.43M people attended VIVID

  • 1.8M interactions triggered over 18 days

  • 50,000+ people interacted with cars

  • CTF voted ‘crowd favourite’ of VIVID

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