Although I have lived in Chicago the past 4 years, I have only recently discovered my love of biking throughout the city. However I myself, like many of the other bikers I observe, seem to neglect one of the most critical pieces of safety equipment used in biking, the helmet. Given the dangers of a bike collision in a busy city, you would think that a helmet would be a no brainer, but as we know many of us continue to ride around helmetless. Although I can attribute my lack of helmet to the sheer laziness of ordering one, there really is no definitive answer to why people choose to not wear a helmet. I would venture to say that most people simply find them inconvenient. Wearing a helmet is often uncomfortable, they are bulky, cause us to sweat more intensely (i.e. helmet hair), and are a nuisance to carry around with us once we have reached our destination. If only there was an ideal product that provided bikers with the safety of a helmet, while also allowing bikers to avoid wearing one.
Fortunately for us, the creative minds behind the Hovding have provided bikers with a solution. The Hovding acts as an airbag for bikers and provides riders with as much, if not greater protection against head injuries then the traditional helmet. The rider wears the Hovding around his or her neck, similar to a turtleneck collar. This collar is equipped with numerous sensors which have been programmed with algorithms that detect biker movements that are unnatural and associated with a collision or crash. Therefore, if you are riding along and experience one of the movements associated with a biking accident, the Hovding reacts and deploys its head covering airbag. Once deployed, this airbag covers a much larger surface area then a traditional airbag and remains inflated for several seconds to provide continue protection through the duration of the accident. After a period of time, the airbag will then slowly begin to deflate. The video below shows exactly how the Hovding works in an accident.
The creative minds behind this invention are two industrial-design, graduate students Terese Alstin and Anna Haupt. Their inspiration came from new legislation that occurred while the two were studying at Lund University in Sweden. During this time, Swedish Legislation passed a law that required children under 15 wear a helmet while biking. The new fear amongst the Swedish population was whether a similar law would be adopted that applied to the entire Swedish population. This fear intrigued Alstin and Haupt who set out to find a solution that would allow bike riders to comply with this potential new legislation while also not forcing them to wear a traditional helmet.
In their initial field research Alstin and Haupt found that “aside from helmet head, people thought traditional helmets were unsightly and uncomfortable. Not to mention, it’s hard to find a smooth way to walk into a meeting or bar with a hard, clunky helmet in tow”. One individual in particular said that the only way he would want to wear helmet would to not wear one at all. This particular individual served as a major inspiration claims Alstin. Alstin stated that “it was great motivation for us because we began to think, well, maybe helmets aren’t supposed to be worn on your head. And after seven years of testing, research, and development Alstin and Haupt developed the prototype of what today is known as the Hovding.
While observing the creative process of both Alstin and Haupt I feel that these two individuals work as “little C” creators. They found a problem, people choosing to not wear bike helmets despite the safety benefits, and provided a solution, an entirely new concept of helmet. To come up with their innovative solution I think they did a great job problem finding. By collaborating with numerous bike riders in their field research, Alstin and Haupt Found the root problems with bike helmets. This enabled them to come up with a novel solution of a biker airbag, rather than reinventing the wheel with another variation of a bike helmet. Personally, I think that this creation came as the result of their own intrinsic motivation. Rather than seeking fame or money “Alstin and Haupt [simply] set out to design head gear that people would wear whether they were forced to or not.”
As a bike rider who is currently riding helmetless, I find this innovative airbag to be enticing and as I move forward with my head-protection purchase, I feel that a biker airbag may the better alternative than a standard helmet.