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(CNN) -- Having a bad day? Your car could help put you in a better mood.
Japanese car maker Toyota is working with Stanford University in the U.S. and Edinburgh-based company Affective Media to create the car that can read your feelings.
Toyota has already unveiled a prototype of its Pod concept car, which has headlights that fade from bright to dull and change color to indicate happy, sad or angry moods, depending on how the driver inside is feeling.
The Pod was pitched as a way for drivers to communicate with each other, in an effort to prevent road rage. Lack of communication between drivers on roads is commonly believed to be a cause of road rage.
But Affective Media CEO, Christian Jones, says the concept his company is developing in conjunction with Stanford and Toyota is a more about changes in the driver's mood than changes in the car's appearance.
"This is the next generation of car, which can detect what mood you are in."
He said research showed that a driver's emotional state affected how well they drove: If they were happy, they drove well and if they were sad, they tended to drive worse.
Voice-recognition technology is increasingly being used inside vehicles, as drivers activate their hands-free mobile phones while driving and use navigation systems and CD players, activating them using voice.
Identifying what mood the driver was in by detecting the emotion in their voice was taking things a step further, Jones said.
"It's not as sci-fi as it sounds. We already use our voices for different functions inside the car. It's about giving appropriate information at the right time."
He said the car would be able to detect, for example, if the driver was stressed about running late and tell them the best possible route.
"It would give certain information that would help. If they were in a hurry, the car would work out the safer, faster route instead of, perhaps, a scenic route," he said.
"The in-car voice would talk to you in an attempt to improve the state of your mood."
Jones said the technology would not act as a counselor to solve complex issues, but it would be more like a "best friend" who could cheer you up at the end of a long day.
Other mood improvers could include playing soothing music.
It would also be able to detect whether the driver was drowsy by identifying signs such as quiet, flat speech, and could then trigger an alarm to rouse the driver.
Jones believed the car could be on roads within three or four years.
Affective Media specializes in developing emotion recognition technology, which can be applied to a number of different situations, not only for cars, but for call centers, the computer gaming industry and mobile phones.
The technology is effectively "trained" to read people's emotions simply by listening to their voice, taking into consideration such things as pitch, delivery rate and volume of speech.
A former university lecturer, Jones co-founded his company in 2001 when he realized there was a commercial demand for his research into emotion recognition, which was at the time being applied to animated movies.
In call center environments, the company's technology is being applied to detect when callers become frustrated with automated voice recognition systems and determine when they should be put through to a real person.
"When people are talking to a machine, it's not 100 percent fool-proof. It can be an alienating experience for the caller."
Jones said the technology was also being applied in interactive voice-based computer games. Emotion-recognition technology meant computers could react to what the players were saying, depending on the emotion detected in their voices.
He said that as society became more technology-based, the need for emotion became more and more important.
"Forms of communication like text messaging and email are void of emotion."
He said the main aim of his company's technology was to make every day life more friendly and relaxing.