Imagine walking into a Michelin-starred restaurant where the waiters hand you a list of every ingredient in the kitchen and say, “What do you want to eat?”
Only a devout foodie could discern the exact spices, broths, and herbs required to even approximate a five-star coq au vin or boeuf bourguignon.
Bentley, the luxury automaker, suggests that the above scenario is a little bit what it’s like when someone decides to buy one of its new Bentayga SUVs. There are hundreds of paint colors on offer, not to mention dozens of wood, steel, and leather options you must sift through for interior aesthetics, plus a Bentley bespoke program that will literally match your favorite socks to your Continental GT, if that’s what you want.
The choice can be paralyzing, in an extreme-privilege kind of way. You know you’re hungry, but you just don’t know what you feel like eating. (Except, of course, nobody involved here is hungry.)
Enter the “Inspirator,” a mobile phone application Bentley says will make sense of it all. Using the app is a bit of an undertaking (best performed when you are bored or suffering from midnight insomnia), but it’s free to download—consider it a bonus option on the $300,000 Bentley you’ll buy right after. The average user spends eight minutes with it, according to the company.
It works by using sensors to monitor your facial expressions as you watch a series of short films featuring imagery like waves crashing on a beach or an equestrienne gliding over a barrier. Your natural nonverbal cues—or lack thereof—guide the narrative, which is delivered by a handsome, clean-cut white actor in a suit. Then it produces the image of a Bentayga spec’d to your exact personality and taste.
If, for instance, you smiled slightly during the part of the film where crystalline snowflakes whoosh through the sunlight and Saville Row-dressed men walk under the vaulted ceilings of old-world buildings, you may end up with a Dune-colored SUV complete with Beluga interior and slate-gray 21-inch alloy wheels. But that was just me.
The whole thing feels like taking a personality test and learning something about yourself that you hadn’t considered outright but that you realize is true.
“It’s a stepping-off point,” says James Haywood, Bentley’s digital product manager. “It’s about the possibility of luxury commissioning. You will probably land on combinations you had never known you’d like.”
Watching the technology track your facial expressions is as interesting as playing the game (and more entertaining than the actual clips you must sit through). At the end, you can watch the facial analysis at work as you make faces into the camera, which is fun. And once you’ve been matched with a Bentayga color and design scheme, the results are saved for future reference in a personalized digital magazine inside the app—but at this point you still have to visit a dealer if you really want the car. The technology is beautiful, but it doesn’t quite allow users to just push a button and buy a Bentley. Not yet, anyway.
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