An “Invisible Bike Helmet” that’s a-head of the pack
In Europe, cycling is a way of life, but wearing a bicycle helmet is not. Two Swedish industrial designers, Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin, are aiming to change this, not by designing a better bike helmet but by literally turning the problem on its head. Their idea? An airbag that deploys to protect your head in the case of a fall. But instead of a helmet, it’s stored inside a stylish collar that’s worn around your neck, preserving your vanity as well as your noggin.
The design duo just got a huge boost from INDEX, a Denmark-based not-for-profit that hands out the world’s largest cash design award. Their “invisible bicycle helmet,” known as Hovding, took first place in the INDEX award’s “Play” category. The INDEX jury wrote, “The team behind Hövding defined the problem, not as a design of a helmet, but as a solution to a problem”—that being the injury or death of 30,000 cyclists in traffic accidents each year, just in Sweden.
The Hovding has been six years in the making. It evolved from a master’s thesis into an engineering feat. Basically, it relies on a system of sensors – accelerometers and gyros -- that track the motion of the cyclist and trigger the airbag in the event of an accident. In order to distinguish between normal and abnormal cycling movements, the Horving’s designers spent years gathering movement data from cyclists, stunt riders and crash-test dummies.
At $500 a piece, the Hovding is unlikely to transform the streets of Sweden when it hits the market this fall. But for a helmet-averse public, that might be beside the point. What it represents, according to the INDEX jury, “is a paradigm shift in the area of bike safety [that] hinges on the professional competency of designers, not the adaptive capability of the users....” That gets my nod of approval.
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