When we initially reported on the Smart Hat, the overwhelming response we got was that it must be some sort of joke. This has apparently been a common reaction and the cycle helmet’s Australian designer, Toby King, is rather puzzled by how cyclists have greeted his work. “I’m going ‘it’s a safety device – it's for your safety’.”
Speaking to SBS Cycling Central, King explained how his unique design had evolved.
“My thinking was, here’s something that will improve safety with the same mechanisms and devices of other road users. Brake lights, headlights, indicators. It’s a simple and intuitive system to use. And then the extension of that line of thinking was; if you’re going to put a power system in a helmet, there’s a lot of other things you can do which are interesting and useful. Ultrasonic proximity was one thing, someone gets warned when there’s somebody close to them.”
King is hoping that the Smart Hat could one day be available for A$200 (around £110) but an industrial designer has estimated the price to be at least ten times greater than that. They also pointed out that with all the various gizmos, the helmet would be extremely cumbersome to wear for any length of time. King disputes this and also appears unconcerned by a potentially high cost.
“I know people are willing to spend 10-15K on a bicycle. What’s the value of safety, or saving yourself from trauma to your head?
“I don’t think it will weigh too much either. Our heads and necks are designed to take quite a load anyway. We’ve got eight kilograms of weight in bone and brain already.
"It’s not going to be a major problem, but if it is, some of it can be put in other areas of the bicycle. And there’s not much weight in there anyway. There’s batteries, there’s an iPhone, and a display. It’s something you don’t really know until it’s been prototyped."
King describes overall reaction to the Smart hat as ‘mixed’.
“I’ve had the knee-jerk from cyclists, 'it’s horrible', 'we hate it'. But I’ve also had a lot of people saying this is a really interesting idea – you know – nobody has done a sophisticated safety helmet before, some have said, ‘where can I buy it’, others have phoned up saying they want to invest in it."
King admits that he doesn’t actually ride a bike himself – he “honestly prefers vehicles”. However, he says that people like him might be persuade to cycle if it were safer. He believes his design would help in this regard.
“It is a safety device. It makes other road users understand what cyclists are doing, it allows cyclists to understand what other road users are doing with proximity sensors and mirrors. It can only be a good thing. Which is why I’m a bit puzzled by the reaction from cyclists, when I’m going ‘it’s a safety device - it's for your safety’.”
King’s next step will be to take his design to the New South Wales government.