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9 January 2024 · Tips N' Tricks

Human Harmony

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Mazda’s ActivSync engineering philosophy puts your wellbeing above all else.

Words Ross Brown, Interviews Mariko Kato

 

Here’s a curious truth. Mazda engineers spend as much time thinking about how the human body works as they do creating ground-breaking technological components. They think about our posture, our balance, and even the way we breathe. Why? Because they have a 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 there are disciplines such as martial arts and ballet dedicated to perfecting the way we move, both consciously and unconsciously.

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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 wellbeing. “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 practising akido 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 the 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 – in their shoes while engaging in physical labour. The theory is that correct posture is the key to good health. The result? Seventy per cent 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.”

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MAZDA IS 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 its pursuit 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.

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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 Div

To empower people and put health before all else is an approach Mazda calls ActivSync (to activate the mind, body, and spirit, and synchronise with people). Focusing on emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing through a multitude of touchpoints (steering, braking, accelerating, and sitting position, for example) is testament to the human-centric engineering approach seen in various elements of Mazda's engineering, including the Mazda CX-60's driver personalisation system. Yet, 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 wellbeing, 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.

PUTTING YOU FIRST

Human-Centric Design