HUMAN HARMONY IN MOTION
Mazda’s ActivSync engineering philosophy puts your well-being above all else.
Here’s a curious truth. Mazda engineers spend as much time thinking about how the human body works as they do creating groundbreaking technological components. They think about our posture, our balance and even the way we breathe. Why? Because they have vision: to build cars that improve, not deteriorate, your health.
Of course, this focus on harmony of motion through breathing and posture is not a Mazda invention. The human body has been under scrutiny since time immemorial, and disciplines such as martial arts and ballet are dedicated to perfecting the way we move, both consciously and unconsciously.
For aikido master Hiroaki Kobayashi, the right posture is all about unlocking our full potential.
For aikido master Hiroaki Kobayashi, who runs Aikido Kobayashi Dojo, the right posture is all about unlocking our full potential. “We rarely use our upper ribs now, for example, but our ancestors in the Edo period used them a lot,” he says. “The aikido moves they invented require us to use our ribs flexibly to achieve the correct posture and move our bodies from the core so that our movements become natural and smooth. If you consciously project your movements from the core when you’re cooking or cleaning, it helps with shoulder or hip pain.”
Correct breathing—something we all naturally take for granted—is also crucial to our well-being.
Correct breathing—something we all naturally take for granted—is also crucial to our well-being. “Some of my students stop breathing in order to balance themselves or spin fast,” says Hanako Kitazawa, a former soloist at Tokyo City Ballet who now runs the Sydney City Ballet School. “But that reduces the amount of oxygen flowing into your bloodstream, which hardens your muscles and stops you moving smoothly.” Get it right, adds Kitazawa, and you begin to unconsciously connect with the world around you; the body absorbs the sound of the orchestra and becomes a musical instrument performing on stage.
Now, admittedly, Mazda engineers may not be practicing aikido or ballet in their workshops, but don’t think for one moment that human-centric innovation isn’t taking place at their Hiroshima headquarters. One perfect example of this is their recent shoe insole test. Working to the assumption that sporting excellence is achieved when athletes demonstrate perfect posture and breathing almost without thinking about it, Mazda asked 100 plant workers to wear advanced insoles—designed to assist with stability and mobility through the feet and pelvis—inside their shoes while engaging in physical labor. The theory is that correct posture is the key to good health. The result? Seventy percent claimed to experience less fatigue and back pain due to the reduced strain on their legs and back. “Mazda focuses on what people do unconsciously,” explains Yasuyoshi Mushitani, Senior Principal Engineer at Mazda’s Chassis Dynamics Development Department. “[We] build cars while working towards a better understanding of this.”
Mazda are determined to create a “balance of human body and mind” for drivers.
This brings us back to the idea of creating vehicles in which the more you drive, the healthier you become. For example, Mazda has been hard at work creating the optimal driving posture that targets trunk muscle activity, which in turn works in tandem with the brain to keep the body balanced when you accelerate, decelerate or turn a corner. You do this unconsciously and without thinking, in just the same way the right posture leads to better breathing: slouching encumbers the diaphragm, which can result in shallow breathing and ultimately fatigue. These are things we simply don’t consider when we drive, but are things that Mazda is determined to perfect in their pursuit to to create a “balance of human body and mind” for drivers, explains Masaki Chiba, General Research Manager at Mazda’s Integrated Control System Development Division.
Yasuyoshi Mushitani, Senior Principal Engineer at Mazda’s Chassis Dynamics Development Department, left, is passionate about elevating the driving experience. Masaki Chiba, General Research Manager at Mazda’s Integrated Control System Development Division, right, was a prominent figurehead in the development of ActivSync.
To empower people and put health before all else is an approach Mazda call “ActivSync” (to activate the mind, body and spirit, and synchronize with people). Focusing on emotional, mental, and physical well-being through a multitude of touchpoints (steering, braking, accelerating, and sitting position, for example) is testament to the human-centric engineering approach, but ActivSync goes further than that.
Mazda’s in-cabin technology is designed to exhilarate by stirring emotions through subtle sensory engagement experiences. Less physical and mental tension invigorates well-being, and better safety features infuse the overall driving experience with confidence. The purpose is to transform the chore of driving into the joy of driving. It is true harmony in motion.
Words Ross Brown, Interviews by Mariko Kato
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