John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
It might not give you Matrix-style bullet-dodging skills, but this German invention could cause you to walk into an open manhole.
This German "Decelerator Helmet" might not give you Matrix-style bullet-dodging skills, but it could let you walk blindly into an open manhole.
Built by Lorenz Potthast, the high-tech headgear is meant to slow down the hustle and bustle of the modern city. For the viewer entrapped within its spheroid gut, its mechanism is simple yet difficult to grasp on a why-was-this-built level. The wearer puts the device over his head like an inverted ice bucket. He sees a computer monitor showing what's happening straight ahead in real-time. Using a wireless mouse, the user can cause the video feed to slow down, creating the sensation that everyone is slogging through three feet of gooey blackstrap.
Potthast conceived of the decelerator while taking a course about overstimulation in the Internet age at the University of the Arts Bremen in Germany. Regarding why he felt the need to design an aluminum temporal-shifter, he writes:
The inconceivably [large] amount of information and influences in our everyday lives leads in many cases to an excessive demand. The idea to decouple the personal perception from the natural timing enables the user to become aware of his own time....
The Decelerator gives the user the possibility to reflect about the flow of time in general and about the relation between sensory perception, environment and corporality in particular. Also it dramatically visualizes how slowing down can potentially cause a loss of the present.
The last part raises the biggest question: How are you supposed to keep track of where you're going with this aluminum bulb slowing everything down? Perhaps there's a space to peek out at the bottom, like with a poorly tied blindfold? Otherwise I could see a lot of concussive bashing of walls and kiosks. To be fair, though, tumbling down a flight of stairs in slow-mo could be really cool to watch.