Technology marches on. In the form an “augmented reality” helmet prototype that “pushes” environmental information onto the “heads-up” display of the helmet face shield.
After a recent trip to New York City with my family, I noticed many of city’s new bike lanes, and the mix riders using them, including a handful of commuter types, bike-for-transportation types and, in the neighborhood where I stayed, delivery bike riders. (And I saw scads of roadies on the streets running through Central Park.)
Despite the new bike lanes, riding on the streets of New York is still no picnic. Auto and pedestrian traffic is ever present, with hazards of all types at the ready. And urban cycling is much the same in cities like London and Paris.
Which is where the British “think tank”-type group Future Cities Catapult comes in. The group “forecasts” possible future technologies to meet the needs of growing cities and their inhabitants. In this case, the helmet prototype was cooked up ostensibly to “make cycling safer.”
However, it seems to me the idea is a bit at cross-purposes with reality. The design team explains that the purpose is to get the rider to keep a heads-up posture and not be forced to look down at their smart phone for environmental data like upcoming turns or (and this is cool, and real – as Garmin already has a radar product), blind-spot monitoring.
Here’s how the designers explain it:
“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.”
Pardon me for being old-fashioned, but aren’t they admitting that the heads-up display is a distraction in and of itself? I always thought “the rider pays attention to the city around them” is the best and safest approach, all by itself.
I love the idea of technology helping make cycling safer, but whether your eyes are focusing on the data on your handlebar-mounted computer or phone, or they’re focusing on the data projected on your visor, they’re NOT focused on the environment around you. More data can also mean more distraction. That’s a fine line tech developers need to keep in mind.