The Future of Safer Cycling: Augmented Reality Helmets
Future Cities Catapult, the team behind the "3D Soundscape" headset, prototype a cycle helmet that would supply rides with spatial and contextual information
The construction of bike lanes in accordance with New York City’s Citi Bike stations popping up around the city in recent years has stirred much controversy. While the lanes seem to benefit delivery men and casual bikers alike, many drivers have expressed their frustration over stolen driving lanes and parking spaces now filled by the green bike path. Moreover, the growing number of people encouraged to abandon their cars or the subway in favor of a more health-minded and eco-friendly pursuit inevitably spikes the number of biker-related casualties. Cue Future Cities Catapult, the developer behind a biking helmet laden with augmented reality (AR) capabilities.
“Many cities are spending serious money, time and attention on improving the ‘hard infrastructure’ of cities to make cycling safer, more convenient, more attractive,” explains chief design officer Dan Hill, “[however] there is potential of a soft infrastructure which can be overlaid on existing urban fabric to further support cycling, which takes advantage of contemporary technologies such as wearables, Internet of Things, real-time sensor data, and so on.”
The helmet comes attached with a flip-down visor that performs the AR function and promises an HuD (Heads-Up Display) system via push notifications, perhaps integrating a world of icons for a simplistic yet crisp approach to the term “imageability,” as coined by urban planner/designer Kevin Lynch.
Imageability refers to the learning process by which we familiarize ourselves with our surroundings.
“This prototype explores how technology might support a learning process based on imageability, such that the device and its interface essentially disappears over time, and the rider pays attention to the city around them” explains the team. “On a bike, we particularly need cyclists to develop a heads-up stance, looking at the environment around them, rather than down at a phone.”
Coupled with a blind-spot visualization prototype, a device that draws upon side-mounted projectors attached to larger-sized vehicles and sends signals back to the helmet, Future Cities Catapult hopes to significantly reduce the number of biker-related casualties while simultaneously helping them select shorter or less dangerous paths.
Beyond the helmet, the team has also designed various mounted add-ons to enhance the biking experience. A device attached to your handlebars gauges air quality of current trails and offers alternative pathways with less fumes, exhaust and overall pollution.
People who opt for bike-sharing methods such as New York’s CitiBike, Paris’ Velib, or London’s cylce-hire schemes might be pleased to find a GPS or phone-powered gadget that instructs users when to make a turn via colored dots. The 3D-printed device, which also rests on the handle bars, goes so far as to indicate when a user has strayed off path.
Though most of the ingredients are still in the prototyping phase, it is evident that the Future Cities Catapult team has envisioned a more exciting, safer, and cost-effective future for biking.