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back to article Finally, a USEFUL smart device: Intel boffins cook up gyro-magneto-'puter bike helmet

Five Intel interns from Oregon State University have devised an Atom-powered bike helmet that calls home if the rider crashes. The smart helmet protects the bike rider, plays music and receives calls from a smartphone if there is a crash. A silent, unresponsive cyclist? An emergency number gets automatically called to get help …

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As a motorbike rider...

... I fully agree that this is the best instance of truly useful wearable technology since the wristwatch.

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Re: As a motorbike rider...

As a VERY long term motorcycle rider, I can't think of almost any device which could more PROMOTE accidents than this, which adds unwanted distractions to something which needs 110% attention, at all times.

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Re: As a motorbike rider...

So you're saying that a helmet display is more dangerous than taking one's eyes off the road to glance at the gauges on the bike? And it's not like it's new tech since helmet displays have been developed for military aviation as well. It's just a matter of developing a way to unobtrusively display useful information like speed, revs, and fuel.

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Re: As a motorbike rider...

Also long term rider and (semi-former*) advanced safety instructor.

HUD could be good, but I think I'd prefer to have my viewing space un-cluttered. Maybe something I can activate eg with a button near my left thumb.

For shorter trips no music. But for longer trips, music can help maintain focus - for some anyway. For me, it stops me remembering past conversations. As a CPTSD sufferer if something triggers certain memories it could prove fatal. Like all things riding, it's a risk that I've learned to manage.

Also, at least with my helmet and bikes, at highway speeds I cannot hear much (you do use earplugs to protect your hearing I hope?) so with music on I do not lose anything. If I'm riding right, I'm aware of the vehicles and other things around me with a 12sec scan pattern.

( * NZ government do nothing to encourage rider training, or to even mention it exists. As such, few organizations survive and those that do are struggling to attract students. I'd train for fuel costs if the schools I know could get more than two or three students for a weekend session - but even at barely-break-even prices many riders consider it too expensive)

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Re: As a motorbike rider...

@G R Goslin - I was referring specifically to the impact detection and emergency call-out, not to the additional gadgetry. However, to be more specific, I think HUD is helpful as instead of shifting gaze down to instruments and shortening focus, then head up again and change focus again towards road, a rider can see instrument readouts without changing gaze or focus. Of course HUD should show readout for instruments - speed, revs, fuel, gear + temperature/oil warning lights. NOT sms messages.

Music can be distracting or not... but certainly audio isn't in itself covering any other noises such as approaching cars. Typically engine + wind noise is anyway drowning out these other noises anyway

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As someone who always wears a cycle helmet when out and about on the pushbike,

I have to ask: aren't cycle helmets dorky enough, already?

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Holmes

Re: As someone who always wears a cycle helmet when out and about on the pushbike,

As someone who always wears a helmet on my bicycle but hasn't had a crash in 30 years - this seems like overkill. I do like the built in music speakers though. That would be much better than the music I get from the Android mounted on my bike handlebars. But would I pay $300 dollars or whatever obscene amount of money this is going to cost? No way in hell.

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dropped

Think of the accidently knocked or dropped helmets that trigger false emergency callouts......

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Re: dropped

Thinks of making phone-calls and listening to music casing real emergency callouts.

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Re: dropped

@Caff - one would hope they'd have included a sensor inside to confirm it's actually being worn before triggering any response. But as also noted above, given they've seen fit to include the huge safety issue and distraction of streaming music and calls it certainly doesn't go without saying that they did...

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Re: dropped

"given they've seen fit to include the huge safety issue and distraction of streaming music and calls" - radios and CD players are pretty ubiquitous in cars. Likewise handsfree calls are acceptable too.

Why do you think it should be different on a bike?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: dropped

"Why do you think it should be different on a bike?"

Because a car balances itself, doesn't stray based on weight distribution, which changes when you're moving your body position to fiddle with devices, which usually aren't designed to be used through gloves meaning extra fiddling to find buttons etc.

You're also very unlikely to die from crashing into something at 20mph in a car, but could easily die crashing into something at 20mph on a bike (motor or pedal). Also audio on a bike is delivered through earphones, not speakers a foot away, meaning it blocks out background noise which is essential to your awareness.

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Solution in search of a problem

The crash-notification tech doesn't have to be wearable. If it was any use it would already be fitted to cars.

But maybe it is. Or should be. Surely there's more of a case for incorporating it into motor vehicles than cycle helmets.

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Re: Solution in search of a problem

"crash-notification tech doesn't have to be wearable. If it was any use it would already be fitted to cars"

Quite a few manufacturers already have this as part of the on-board services; linked to the air-bag deployment.

I think the idea of smart helmets is a good one though; a helmet offers enough space to mount the sensors and the "smartness". The fire-fighter helmet is the most obvious application, but probably using something like Wi-Fi to link back to a fire truck or mobile control centre or Thunderbird 1.

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Re: Solution in search of a problem

"The European Union wants a system that automatically calls for help in the event of a crash to be fitted to all new vehicles by 2015." It says here:

http://www.economist.com/news/technology-quarterly/21615060-way-cars-are-made-bought-and-driven-changing-mobile-communications

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Solution in search of a problem

> If it was any use it would already be fitted to cars.

It is. Compulsory for new cars in the EU starting in 2015, too.

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Re: Solution in search of a problem

Except that it looks likely to be delayed. In particular, the UK government isn't happy.

I'm not sure I am, either - yet another bit of tech over which I have no control. Meh.

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Re: Solution in search of a problem

Except that car accidents are more likely to have a survivor capable of calling for help, and a smashed car is more easily seen and reported by other road users. Cyclists are the most vulnerable road users and can benefit most from this.

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For divers, there are already dive computers to control depth, air pressure and ascent rates, normally worn on the wrist.

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"For divers, there are already dive computers to control depth, air pressure and ascent rates, normally worn on the wrist."

And they already make a helmet-mounted display for divers so the diver doesn't have to look down to be kept informed. In fact, they already make an HMD for firefighters, too (the C-Thru).

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Cycle helmets need ventilation slots

As with bikinis the less you get the more you pay.

From the photograph it all looks pretty solid (unlike motorcycle crash helmets, they don't protect your head from anything really serious) which would make it fairly uncomfortable for anyone travelling so far or so fast as to actually benefit from wearing it.

Solve that and it looks interesting.

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Re: Cycle helmets need ventilation slots

They need to be light too. How much weight do the electronics and the battery add?

-A.

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Re: Cycle helmets need ventilation slots

Use a cycle airbag instead

http://www.hovding.com/

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All that safety...

...and yet they still include the music and calls stuff, thus ruining it? I know for a certain category it would be a key selling point, but from experience both as a cyclist and a pedestrian, a major reason for collisions between the two (or with cars) is usually one or other (or occasionally both) being so engrossed or deafened by the call/music respectively that they're not aware of the surroundings that they are navigating through.

The number of times I've been cycling along and had some schoolzombie being led by the nose by their phone step out in front of me is depressingly large (and I've witnessed it happening at least 3 times with them stepping off a kerb into the road without realising they were doing so, once almost ending up in an RTA with a car).

I would also wonder about whether it would have been better to include some kind of head/neck airbag system, probably coupled with a sensor to confirm that the thing is actually being worn in case of sudden acceleration, to differentiate between a collision and it just getting dropped.

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Re: All that safety...

Ok, ill bite.

Assuming that the music isn't of a level that you cant hear anything but the music, can you explain how 'music stuff' ruins it?

I ride my bike pretty often. In fact, I commute on it every day almost. More often than not I am wearing headphones.

The two times I have been knocked off my bike I wasn't wearing headphones. In both of these events I didn't notice a definitive 'I AM ABOUT TO HIT YOU' tone to the engine noise as opposed to every other vehicle that passes me by without incident every day.

If a car is going to hit you from behind, hearing it in super high fidelity without any background music will not help.

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Re: All that safety...

I wouldn't make that assumption - in some of the cases I mentioned I've been able to clearly hear the music as a 3rd party, so quite how loud it is in their ears I don't know.

From my daily ride to/from work I have differing experience to you obviously, where in lieu of rear-view mirrors or eyes in the back of my head being able to hear traffic around you is a good back-up for being able to see them without having to twist your head around so much you end up falling off or veering into traffic yourself.

I'm not thinking here of a car behind that will hit you anyway regardless, I'm thinking more of the scenario of cyclists turning across or veering in front of cars that they haven't seen or heard. For that kind of spacial awareness hearing is rather useful. Similar thing applies on the cycle-paths with earphone wearers (on and off bikes) who are so engrossed in the ride and the music that they don't think anyone else may also be using the paths.

Maybe it's just a local thing about the pedestrians and cyclists around here though. But I wouldn't trade my normal cycle helmet for one of these things.

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Re: All that safety...

Again, I have to respectfully disagree.

relying on hearing in lieu of twisting your head around is bordering on gross stupidity. There's a reason they call it the 'lifesaver'.

If I make a move across a lane of traffic (small adjustments for road quality shouldn't count as, by rights, you really should be in the 'primary position' when riding), I value my life more than to ever rely on my hearing to inform me of any impending doom. Firstly, what if its a hybrid running on battery? (oh, the irony!) or another cyclist you are about to cut up?

Every turn, lane change, start, stop should be reinforced with a gander, and, where possible, eye contact with the following/relevant driver to assert your intention to do 'something'

Ill take your point on the cycle lanes though and, tellingly, probably wouldn't wear earphones on a cycle lane for just that reason. :)

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Re: All that safety...

Hearing is most useful when passing parked cars and blinded junctions joining from the left as the sound of an engine acts as an alert for something about to pull out. In mainstream traffic where cycling with the stream with one vehicle behind you it allows you to judge the proximity and attitude of the driver behind including if the engine note changes as they plan to overtake. You still look, but sound acts as an early warning.

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Re: All that safety...

It should be noted that some municipalities prohibit the use of earphones while on bicycles, on the understanding that auditory awareness is considered too important to compromise. As some have said, some people can't turn their heads that much without twisting their torso, which in turn means they unintentionally turn the handlebar. Meaning trying to look back can actually be dangerous. As for "hybrid cars", they're big enough that you can still hear the wind as they pass and the friction of the tires on the road, not to mention the whirring of the electric motor. I hear the same phenomenon in electric golf carts. They're not completely whisper-quiet ninja autos. Put it this way, you need as many senses as you can employ to be at your safest on a bike. You can't rely solely on sight (blind spots) or sound (drowning out).

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Re: All that safety...

being able to see them without having to twist your head around so much you end up falling off or veering into traffic yourself.

I have to say that, if you can't control your bike enough to maintain direction should you need to turn your head, maybe you need another mode of transport? (Preferably one that DOESN'T use roads/tracks that other people might?)

Also, as Sarkster said, NOT turning your head to check what is behind you when you change lane/position etc is stupid and negligent. It's not just your life you're risking by relying only on your ears where you should be using your eyes.

Similar thing applies on the cycle-paths with earphone wearers (on and off bikes) who are so engrossed in the ride and the music that they don't think anyone else may also be using the paths.

I guess you really don't ride very often, maybe never? If you did, experience would've taught you by now to give you sufficient space around your intended victims other road/path users to avoid a collision.

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Re: All that safety...

As some have said, some people can't turn their heads that much without twisting their torso, which in turn means they unintentionally turn the handlebar.

Then they shouldn't be on a bike on the road.

I might be getting a bit long in the tooth, but when I took the old UK Cycling Proficiency Test one of the exercises you have to pass is being able to look back over your shoulder without altering the direction of the bicycle.

In much the same way that way too many drivers rely solely on a mirror check, riding in London, and latterly Brisbane, too many cyclists don't do rearward checks correctly, indicate or generally show any kind of road awareness or understanding/reading of what the traffic immediately in front and behind them are about to do (e.g. a car turning left without indicating will still have to break and as the turn starts the body will visibly shift, both are advance cues but some riders don't seem to know how to read them and have to brake sharply to avoid being knocked off).

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Re: All that safety...

"Assuming that the music isn't of a level that you cant hear anything but the music, can you explain how 'music stuff' ruins it?"

If it is loud enough to be heard, then it will be masking other sound, cars coming up behind etc. "Ye cannae change the laws of Physics, Captain"

Anyone cycling whilst listening to music needs their head examined and probably will, by a pathologist after they crash. I cycle to work most days, with a helmet and no music!

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WTF?

So is this basically a bluetooth headset plus a bluetooth shock detector, with a bit of auto-dial magic included (possibly as an app on the phone)? Because if so, then using an Atom processor to do it is an obscene amount of overkill.

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That's one of Intel's new InternetOfStuff™ Atoms, not a full-blown Atom.

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WTF?

It's a dual core x86-64 CPU. How much more full-blown does it need to get to before it's overkill for what can be done with a 8-bit micro?!? "Five Intel interns..." - well yeah, when all you have is a hammer everything starts looking like a nail...

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Battery life

What if you forget to charge your helmet before use - not very effective then. Unless there's an option to plug the helmet into a bike dynamo? Then you'd look REALLY dorky

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Re: Battery life

On detecting low battery the music switches to heavy metal to activate the kinetic charging.

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Divers

Already wear computers that tell them all that information and more including gas mix etc. They don't usually play music or record video, though.

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Can you stop with the Apple link baiting already? If the the tech crash helmet was a great idea, you could present it without carping about Apple.

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Sex

I'm already quivering as I think of all the young ladies who'll doubtless constantly be hitting on me once I start wearing one of these babies...

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Re: Sex

Luckily if they hit on you really hard, your helmet will be able to call for assistance. Although if it calls your wife out that may not be a viable risk mitigation strategy.

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The impact detection could be useful

I fly paragliders. The last time I hit the ground hard there were people around, and just as well or I wouldn't be.

Don't want the music and calls, though, nor the requirement to talk to a mobile; the comms should be built in.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The impact detection could be useful

> Don't want the music and calls, though, nor the requirement to talk to a mobile

Why not? Potentially it could complement or replace the VHF.

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Re: The impact detection could be useful

In the UK radio is not often used for other than gossip between flyers (many of the radios are illegally used and discipline is poor; the number who have the training and certification to use an air-band radio and can thus talk to ATC are vanishingly small).

I'm up there for peace and quiet; for the same reason I don't fly with a lawn-mower engine strapped to my back.

Others no doubt have different views.

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Not so enthusiastic

I note the accompanying photograph also shows the wearer flaunting a huge pet rock wristwatch.

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All very good just don't add any extra weight to the helmet. Carrying extra weight up top can exacerbate any neck injury.

And sorry all you lycra-clad freaks out there, but you are already disqualified from having an "Intel inside" sticker.

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Holmes

Wearable Dive Computers...

BRILLIANT idea. Seriously who'd have thought it - a wearable dive computer capable of recording dive parameters. I definitely go out and buy one...No! Wait! I already did 12 years and they weren't even new then!

Great idea, hats off to the interns.

Authors please research your own ideas a little better though :)

J

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Anonymous Coward

Meh, like with most fanciful undergrad projects, they've not thought this one through...

All this assumes that the electronics will still be working after a bike crash severe enough for someone to lose consciousness, even while wearing a helmet. In such a scenario it's unlikely that the helmet would even remain in one piece. More likely you'd end up with is an unconscious cyclist that has a split Li-Ion battery slowing burning a hole through his skull!

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Re: Meh, like with most fanciful undergrad projects, they've not thought this one through...

No reason why, if competently designed. I build stuff that takes 10,000g accelerations. With lithium batteries, too.

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Mushroom

Re: Meh, like with most fanciful undergrad projects, they've not thought this one through...

That sounds awfully like an explosively accelerated ballistic object...

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