John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
It may look like a radioactive Chambered Nautilus initiating a cranial death-grip, but the builders of the LumaHelm see a universe of possibility in its bizarre light-shell.
It may look like a radioactive Chambered Nautilus has put a death-grip on your cranium, but the builders of this LumaHelm bike helmet see a universe of possibility in its bizarre galactic light-shell.
The helmet is the latest piece of quirky tech to float out of the Exertion Games Lab at Melbourne's RMIT University, also the mother of that flying robot that motivates shiftless joggers. What is it, precisely? At the simplest level it's a regular helmet to which the researchers have applied strips of multicolored LEDs. These strips are linked to a microcontroller board that gives the wearer the ability to activate certain lights individually or in eye-catching groups. An onboard accelerometer torn out of a Wii Nunchuk allows lights to be activated with movement of the head. Finally, a thick block of batteries that may or may not promote neck strain keeps the whole array running for hours of futuristic commuting.
Skeptics might decry the metal-buckling crater this rigged-up helmet might produce when crashing into cars (bikers might view that as a selling point). But the Exertion engineers believe it's a good first step in making biking gear safer and more interactive. For instance, tilting the head up could make the back of the cap flash in red, alerting following motorists that the biker is squeezing the brakes. Flicking the neck left or right could produce corresponding turn signals. Then there's this groovy feature courtesy of a Zephyr BioHarness:
Furthermore, LumaHelm can also visualize heart rate to make other (road) users aware that the helmet wearer is a fragile human being and makes visible to others that the wearer invests physical effort. Increased physical effort can lead to decreased attention, hence the LumaHelm makes visible that cyclists might not be in the same bodily state as their fellow road users such as car drivers, hopefully contributing to a better understanding of each other’s different needs, furthering the appreciation of each other.
While they've acknowledged that the discoball helmet is more of a design experiment than the next step in consumer-helmet evolution, its creators hope the concept might get other people thinking about how to change our lives via light-up hats. Mountain climbers separated via vast distances perhaps could use them to flash crucial information at each other. The same might go for workers in noisy environments like construction sites and factories.
On a less serious note, the LumaHelm would do in a pinch if you ever wanted to dress up like that creepy old guy from City of Lost Children. And heshers might appreciate what the LumaHelm adds to shredding: