'Smart' Bike Helmets Help Map NYC Congestion

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February 1, 2015

A group of cyclists have used their heads to create a congestion map of New York City. They used their helmets, technically.

The group of eight cyclists rode around the various boroughs of the Big Apple during September and October 2014 while wearing the MindRider, a helmet that measured the cyclists' brainwaves. For every second that the cyclist was on the bike, wearing the special helmet, the MindRider recorded a steady stream of data via Bluetooth. The result was a virtual representation of 10 types of brainwaves that combine to show the cyclists' level of focus and stress level.

The theory was that a cyclist who faced little stress on their ride would require a minimal level of focus. On the other hand, the theory went, a very high level of focus, with a corresponding jump in heart rate, would suggest a high number of distractions and, potentially, hazards, such as cars moving quickly or erratically.

Numbers from 0 (low) to 100 (high) corresponded to the riders' level of focus. A computer program then mapped a color scale to match the numbers, from green (low) to yellow to red (high).

The MindRide developer, Arlene Ducao, stressed that she needed more data before she could make definite conclusions as to which routes in New York were "easier" or "safer" for cyclists. The potential is there, though, to create digital representations of congestion, which would be useful to tourists, or recreational cyclists, moreso than cyclists who ride in New York on a regular basis.

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