Every time you strap on this new bike helmet, it starts to read your mind. As you ride down city streets, it tracks your brainwaves to measure your emotions and plots them on a map, so you can see the exact spots when you were most stressed out by traffic.
The MindRider helmet was designed to optimize cycling. After a few rides, you can pull up the data you’ve generated to plan the best route for commuting or a relaxing weekend trip. A crowdsourced map gathers data as a reference for other cyclists or city planners trying to figure out the best location for new bike paths.
Unlike most wearable tech, which require you to strap a gadget on your wrist or ankle or chest, the helmet integrates sensors into something you're probably already wearing while riding on busy streets. But it looks a little different from the average bike helmet.
"The bumps are inspired by the branching neurons and shape of the brain itself," says Arlene Ducao, who designed the helmet along with Ilias Koen, a fellow data visualization expert. "They are stylistic, but as we move toward a final design, we may use them to help secure the circuit in place."
First developed by a designer while she visited MIT Media Lab, the helmet has gone through several iterations—one early version tested red and green lights as a signal to drivers, so they could avoid particularly stressed cyclists. The current helmet has changed that light into a small indicator for the biker themselves; if someone’s relaxed, the light glows green, but as they get more anxious or focused in heavy traffic, it gets more and more red. The light is visible from the corner of an eye as you ride.
Cyclists use the feedback in different ways. "Most of our avid commuters are most interested in the mindfulness or relaxation aspect of MindRider," says Ducao. "New cyclists are most interested how the high focus aspect—the red part of the spectrum—can help them know where to be more cautious."
But the data may be most useful as it's aggregated. Anyone with the helmet can opt to share it anonymously online, so everyone's experience can be merged in an up-to-the-minute map showing exactly how a particular route will make you feel.
The design team is already testing this out on a smaller scale before the helmet is widely available. "We're mapping local neighborhoods in Brooklyn, block-by-block," says Ducao. "We think the map could still be useful to compare against traffic and accident data, and will be a cool visual proof-of-concept."
The MindRider is crowdfunding on Kickstarter now.