The mind-reading cycle helmet - does it get a green light from you, or a red flag?

MindRider lid developed by MIT master's student uses LED to signal rider's state of mind to other road users

by Simon_MacMichael   November 20, 2012  

MindRider cycle helmet (Source Arlene Ducao, MIT)

A master’s student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has developed a bicycle helmet that is able to read the mind of the cyclist wearing it and uses coloured lights to warn other road users of the rider’s mental state – ranging from green for focused and active to red for drowsy or anxious and flashing red for outright panic.

Called MindRider, the helmet takes electroencephalogram (EEG) feedback from the brain and turns that into instructions to the LEDs positioned around the helmet.

Its creator, Arlene Ducao, says on her project page on the MIT website: “As many people return to cycling as a primary means of transportation, MindRider can support safety by adding visibility and increased awareness to the cyclist/ motorist interaction process.”

Here’s the tech background on how MindRider works, in Ducao’s own words:

MindRider is a helmet that translates electroencephalogram (EEG) feedback into an embedded LED display. For the wearer, green lights indicate a focused, active mental state, while red lights indicate drowsiness, anxiety, and other states not conducive to operating a bike or vehicle. Flashing red lights indicate extreme anxiety (panic). As many people return to cycling as a primary means of transportation, MindRider can support safety by adding visibility and increased awareness to the cyclist/motorist interaction process.

In future versions, MindRider may be outfitted with an expanded set of EEG contacts, proximity sensors, non-helmet wearable visualization, and other features that will increase the cyclist's awareness of self and environment. These features may also allow for hands-free control of cycle function. A networked set of MindRiders may be useful for tracking, trauma, and disaster situations.

MindRider consists of an altered bicycle helmet, a single electrode EEG device (I used the NeuroSky MindSet), an Arduino [open-source single-board microcontroller - ed] (I used a Pro, but any will do), a bluetooth radio (I used a Bluetooth Mate), an RGB LED light strip, 3 transistors to control the light colors, and a 9V battery. The bluetooth radio is used simply for the MindSet to communicate with the Arduino. The schematic and Arduino sketch are below. The sketch is a little messy, so write to me if you have questions.

Is it a workable idea? Clearly anything that requires you to wear a helmet in the first place is going to meet resistance among many cyclists.

At the same time, when a large vehicle is just inches from your back wheel, wouldn’t it be good to have a way of letting the driver know just how you feel about the situation?

That assumes, of course, that motorists were aware of what the flashing lights actually meant in the first place – a reflection of the rider’s emotions, rather than a pretty light display, and one that in any event would have much more impact at night than in the daytime.

Let’s imagine it did become widely used among cyclists, and motorists were aware of how it worked – it’s sadly not too much of a stretch to think that some drivers, seeing the green lights lit up, might see how quickly they could get them to turn through solid red to flashing red.

You could also see a device that measures cyclists’ brain patterns being of interest to the marginal gains gurus at British Cycling – although strictly for training, this isn’t something that’s likely to get a ‘UCI approved’ sticker slapped on it any time soon.

With our thinking caps on, we can see it having more of an application among the military or emergency services – imagine a police commander in a riot control situation, able to pinpoint where his officers on the front line are under most stress.

Ducao, however, is clearly someone on a mission to find uses for a helmet beyond protecting cyclists’ heads (or not, depending on your point of view) in the case of a crash.

Previously, she has developed an accelerometer-controlled cycle helmet complete with turning indicator lights – tilt your head left and the helmet signals left, tilt it to the right and the helmet signals right.

 

22 user comments

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I'm out.

posted by andyp [776 posts]
20th November 2012 - 13:59

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At the same time, when a large vehicle is just inches from your back wheel, wouldn’t it be good to have a way of letting the driver know just how you feel about the situation?

I would have thought a being able to activate a very bright rear light angled up towards driver height would be more effective.

posted by thereverent [294 posts]
20th November 2012 - 14:01

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"Let’s imagine it did become widely used among cyclists, and motorists were aware of how it worked – it’s sadly not too much of a stretch to think that some drivers, seeing the green lights lit up, might see how quickly they could get them to turn through solid red to flashing red."

My thoughts exactly. Cupid stunts would see this as a game.

"With our thinking caps on, we can see it having more of an application among the military or emergency services – imagine a police commander in a riot control situation, able to pinpoint where his officers on the front line are under most stress."

Again, rioters would simply concentrate on the flashing red helmets.

If I could have, say, 6 bikes, would it stop me drooling over others that I don't have?

posted by notfastenough [2876 posts]
20th November 2012 - 14:20

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Very Quaint - what we really need is for Arlene Ducaoto to design a car that converts poor driver eye road scanning behaviour into automatic speed limitation - the more aggressive, scatter brained or distracted the driver the slower the vehicles maximum speed and acceleration rate becomes - Simples! Big Grin

Sudor

posted by Sudor [179 posts]
20th November 2012 - 14:28

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I want one that's permanently set to the code for 'grumpy Yorkshireman' or, even better, 'criminal psychopath'.

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posted by John Stevenson [950 posts]
20th November 2012 - 14:44

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I don't really see the point. If a motorists gives a cyclist 3 feet then everything is fine; less and it could cause an accident. That is pretty simple yet appears to confuse car drivers just think what would happen if cyclists attempted to educate them on the meaning of the flashing lights on a helmet.

new-to-cycling's picture

posted by new-to-cycling [47 posts]
20th November 2012 - 14:48

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@notfastenough - wouldn't need the lights though. Just a radio transmitter that fed location data and state of mind to say a tablet computer.

Certainly an interesting concept, but I suspect it probably has more practical uses outside cycling.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7829 posts]
20th November 2012 - 14:52

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Sudor wrote:
Very Quaint - what we really need is for Arlene Ducaoto to design a car that converts poor driver eye road scanning behaviour into automatic speed limitation - the more aggressive, scatter brained or distracted the driver the slower the vehicles maximum speed and acceleration rate becomes - Simples! Big Grin

Ha haaa! +1 Smile

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7227 posts]
20th November 2012 - 14:56

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Ok, we know what it does. But what's it for?

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2107 posts]
20th November 2012 - 15:06

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When I was doing my engineering masters on any project like this we'd be expected to identify a market need and this doesn't seem to have any market whatsoever. Completely pointless, I'm out!

posted by bikingscot [45 posts]
20th November 2012 - 15:16

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posted by djcritchley [145 posts]
20th November 2012 - 15:26

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@Sudor, +1, at least when you saw someone drive past quickly you could, by definition, admire their focus and skill!

@new-to-cycling, you can imagine the daily mail rants already, "these damn lycra-clad warriors keep flashing red when I approach, I'm a good driver but it's enough to make me crash into the fools!"

@Olridgeback, it's a rehash of this:
http://www.ceoutlook.com/2012/04/20/toyota-shows-mood-sensing-car-electr...

If I could have, say, 6 bikes, would it stop me drooling over others that I don't have?

posted by notfastenough [2876 posts]
20th November 2012 - 15:34

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Interesting technology, duff application.

Surely the most obviously useful application in this space would be to have a motor vehicle detect a driver in a non-alert state or who has had a sudden rise in alertness (eg looking up after fishing for a CD to realise that they're heading towards something) and sound some sort of horn - ideally different from the manually activated one - to warn other road users in the vicinity that there's a muppet falling asleep and heading towards them. Add flashing lights for easy identification in heavy traffic.

Basically it looks like they've had to work from an EEG which is physically in contact with the head and thought "who wears a helmet?" rather than think about how the technology could actually solve a problem (rather than create one). This is just existing technology in a plastic cover, it's not a progressive prototype of thinking the technology into a future application where a non-contact EEG could provide real benefit.

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posted by Bez [363 posts]
20th November 2012 - 15:38

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bikingscot wrote:
When I was doing my engineering masters on any project like this we'd be expected to identify a market need and this doesn't seem to have any market whatsoever. Completely pointless, I'm out!

But there's a widely held view that academia should be actively avoiding the stuff with a market need. If there's a market need, the market will find it. Academia should allow for more progressive ideas to be developed, for technology to be produced without an immediate financial return. If it (or part of it) is useful, the market can then use it and we all move forward.

The odd thing about this is that it is - AFAIK - fairly established technology with no apparently useful ideas tacked on to it, so it's hard to see what the point is.

Bez's picture

posted by Bez [363 posts]
20th November 2012 - 15:45

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I spent years growing up learning through many a hard lesson the need to and how to hide my thoughts and feelings from all but those I trusted, now you want me to advertise them to any passing person. So from now on I'm going to have to learn how to fool a helmet as well? Although I suspect that even if I was to wear such a thing it would persistently flush amber for constantly confused.

More seriously, it is stretching the innovative imagination beyond it's limits to think that this is a practical and helpful. For a start are thoughts, feelings and mood really so singular and linear?

THE ONLY WAY IS BIKE

posted by lushmiester [156 posts]
20th November 2012 - 16:26

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Years ago I read a not very good Sci Fi story in which news laws were introduced, requiring people to have indicators installed on their foreheads. The first was a mood indicator, which glowed if someone was attracted to someone else they were speaking to. The other glowed if the person lied.

There was some sort of political point being made rather clumsily by the writer. It wasn't a great book and I only read it because there was nothing else to hand to read at the time.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2107 posts]
20th November 2012 - 16:46

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OldRidgeback wrote:
It wasn't a great book and I only read it because there was nothing else to hand to read at the time.

Thankfully, so long as you have a mobile phone to hand, you need never find yourself in that position again.

http://m.road.cc/ Wink

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7829 posts]
20th November 2012 - 16:49

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To be fair, she isn't studying engineering...

What colour does it show to indicate extreme anger, verging on genocidal hatred of motorists?

I think the little book of calm should be on my Christmas list.

posted by hoski [62 posts]
20th November 2012 - 17:20

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Will driverless cars be able to see the flashing lights?

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
20th November 2012 - 21:35

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I would only be interested if it fired rear-facing weapons when you thought in Russian.

posted by andyp [776 posts]
21st November 2012 - 9:28

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Wire it into a cutout circuit in a cars ignition system and we'll talk.

posted by Velo_Alex [65 posts]
21st November 2012 - 9:52

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I'll wear one - if all cars are fitted with them and if my red lights are arranged to spell F*~# OFF

Alg

posted by alg [126 posts]
22nd November 2012 - 10:58

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