Nissan Finds a Voice with Bandai Namco


If you’d told me as a kid in an arcade that forty years later the same company that made Pac-Man would voice Nissan cars, I’d have laughed in your face. And now you’d be throwing it in mine. We all know your car loves to talk; telling you the door’s ajar, beeping when you don’t have your seat belt fastened, and so on. Vehicles ‘speak’ to drivers all the time. Pings and beeps have become a common language between man and machine, whether it’s telling you the game is over or your car is low on gas. So why not make it fun by combining the two? At least, that seems to be the line of thinking Nissan and Bandai Namco took in re-imagining the sound cues emanating from your vehicle.

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.
nissan bandai namco
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.
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.
nissan bandai namco
“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.


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ABOUT Nissan Motor Corporation®

Nissan first came to the United States to sell vehicles in 1958 and began importing and making Datsun vehicles in the United States under the Nissan Motor Corporation in U.S.A. (NMC), name in 1960. In 1990, Nissan North America Inc. (NNA), was created to coordinate all of Nissan’s various activities in North America to enhance the design, development, manufacturing, and marketing of Nissan vehicles. In 1998, the two organizations merged operations under the Nissan North America, Inc., name. Headquartered in Franklin, Tennessee, Nissan’s North American operations include automotive styling, engineering, consumer and corporate financing, sales and marketing, distribution and manufacturing for the United States, Canada, and Mexico.