Automotive

Published on July 12th, 2021 | by Joshua Chin

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Nissan Partners Bandai Namco To Create In-Car Sounds

The creators of Pac-Man has been synthesising the notification sounds for future Nissan models. 

While it is certainly unorthodox, the cross-pollination between game developers and automakers isn’t actually all that uncommon in the industry. This is especially true for Nissan, who were the ones that reached out to Polyphony Digital (the creators of Gran Turismo) when it came time to design the multifunction display of its R35 GT-R after all.

Recently too, Nissan has embarked on yet another collaborative project with another game developer. Though this time instead of focusing on what can be seen, the Japanese automaker has partnered with Bandai Namco on a more auditory aspect and has since created something to be heard from within the vehicle instead.

More specifically, Nissan has essentially just collaborated with the creators of Pac-Man (and Tekken, Taiko Drum Master etc.) to develop new in-car sounds for its future model lineup. The aim of which was apparently to give the ‘voice’ of its vehicles more personality and character, while still being able to convey the necessary information to its occupants. 

Now the short video linked below made by Nissan is totally worth a watch to understand more about this rather fascinating cross-industry partnership. For those however who are unable to spare the three minutes to watch the clip, the gist of it is that Bandai Namco’s expertise in designing sounds that is able to simulate players’ intuitive understanding during a game has been a big help in crafting the Japanese automaker’s unique sound signature for its future model lineup. 



 

It hasn’t all been plain sailing though, with Bandai Namco discovering that the sounds from the gaming world didn’t necessarily translate all that well into real world applications. Nissan too had to develop a new high-quality under-dash speaker to best emit the newly created sound signature, as its prior monotone units just didn’t deliver the more layered notification tones that the Japanese game maker had produced. 

Nevertheless, the end result of this collaboration is a set of really rather melodic dual-tone bongs that replaces the sometimes shrill alarm clock-esque notification sounds to be found of Nissans of old. Thereby making it a much more pleasant experience when reminded to put one’s seatbelt on for instance, or alerting to the fact that the key is still within the vehicle. 

These new in-car sounds will start appearing first in the new Nissan Rouge and Pathfinder over in North America, with the Note in Japan and Qashqai in Europe to also getting these lovely bongs. No word yet though on whether these new sound signatures making its way to Malaysian models any time soon, and there sadly isn’t the option to set these in-car chimes to the iconic sounds from Bandai Namco’s back catalogue too. 

PRESS RELEASE: What do video games and some new Nissan cars have in common? The answer lies in what you hear…

Vehicles ‘speak’ to drivers all the time. Whether drivers realize it or not, pings and beeps have become a common language between man and machine, communicating whether a door is ajar, or a seatbelt unfastened.

Getting these sounds right is now more important than ever. That’s why the sound engineers at Nissan teamed up with experts at leading entertainment company Bandai Namco Group to develop in-car sounds for new Nissan models, starting with the 2021 Nissan Rogue and Pathfinder in the United States, the Nissan Note in Japan and the new Nissan Qashqai in Europe.

Bandai Namco Group is well-known not only for developing video game classics like Pac-Man, Tekken and Taiko Drum Master, but also for amusement facilities, toys, and hobby items such as Gundam. They were asked to help create a higher quality sound that uses pitch, tempo and tone to get information across. Ultimately, Nissan wanted the ‘voice’ of its vehicles to have more personality and character.

“We wanted to make it easier to understand the information in the car and provide an emotional tone so that people feel the Nissan brand,” says Hiroyuki Suzuki, Nissan’s lead engineer for in-car information sound design. “In game development, Bandai Namco’s sound creators develop sounds that simulate players’ intuitive understanding. We collaborated to create sounds that can help drivers have a similar intuitive understanding, in addition to creating sounds that will become synonymous with Nissan global models.”

There is psychology involved in the design of informational sounds. And who knows better than the sound designers of video games? These experts create sounds that are easily understood by gamers around the globe.

“There are two types of sound in a game: one creates the world view of the story and express how it develops; the other is functional and absolutely vital for playing the game because they give you feedback or warn you of danger,” said Minamo Takahashi, the sound director at Bandai Namco Research Inc.

He notes that similar to gaming sounds, vehicle cabin alerts must convey important information without distracting the driver. But despite how realistic video games have become, Takahashi says there is still a big difference to making sounds that work in the real world. Working with the Nissan team, he developed sounds that are both distinctly Nissan and functional.

“It was a very intense process,” Takahashi said. “We stayed for days in this studio, had various discussions and went through trial-and-error with Nissan people from the sound engineering, product planning, design, and testing divisions to find out what kind of sound is suitable for the Nissan brand.”

Once the tones were created in line with the brand’s image, the next step was to create variations of the tones according to the urgency and seriousness of the information being conveyed to the driver. As Nissan’s ergonomics test engineer Miwa Nakamura explains: “Research has shown that urgency depends on the frequency of the sound, and that severity depends on the frequency itself. In order to intuitively understand what types of sounds are used, each sound is divided into functional groups and differentiated by tone.”

Besides creating a new signature sound, Nissan engineers also had to consider the devices being used to emit cabin alerts. When they realized that the monotone devices commonly used would not emit the more layered tones that Bandai helped produce, they had to find a solution.

“There is a limit to the expressiveness of those devices, so we developed a new speaker,” said Hato Hiroshi, a Nissan expert of vehicle system design.

A new high-quality speaker fits under the dashboard close to the driver and is optimized for the new information soundscape in Nissan cars, making the important warning sounds distinctive from the sound from the audio speakers.

The partnership between Nissan and Bandai Namco was one of harmony. Nissan engineers were able to get a new perspective from sound creators who make video games. Meanwhile, the gaming experts enjoyed a new application of sound design.

“When I got in a car and listened to the sound coming out, I felt the same way I felt when first playing a game I worked on,” said Bandai Namco’s Takahashi. “Even if the industry is different, that sense of accomplishment when you reach your goal is the same.”

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About the Author

Automotive journalist. Professional work on dsf.my and automacha.com. Personal writing found at driveeveryday.me. Instagram: @driveeveryday



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