Cool or Dumb: A $300 bike helmet that uses artificial intelligence - Technical.ly Brooklyn

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Jul. 18, 2016 7:39 am

Cool or Dumb: A $300 bike helmet that uses artificial intelligence

Do you want to do everything you can to protect your brain? Or is that just what the tech folks want you to think as they take your money? Let's weigh both sides of the latest Kickstarter hit.

The Classon helmet in action.

(Image via Kickstarter)

Is this another ploy by Big Tech to add superfluous bleepy-bloopy stuff to a product that already works in order to separate you from your paycheck? Or, is it an actually useful innovation on a product that has seen little in the way of improvement over the decades?

We’re talking about the Classon Helmet by local company Brooklyness. It’s a bike helmet equipped with cameras and sensors to detect objects in your blind spot, add a turn signal to the back of your head when it detects your arm go out, and activate brake lights for when it detects your motion slowing down. It has raised more than $125,000 from more than 750 backers on Kickstarter.

“Cameras (front & back) scan the environment. This info is interpreted by our algorithm and communicated to you, using our visor interface,” according to Brooklyness. “A non-disruptive light under the visor blinks in your peripheral vision as cars are approaching from behind.”

Let’s take the Dumb side first.

The cost. You can get a perfectly decent bike helmet on Amazon for $30, so this helmet is 10 times more expensive than the industry standard. Is it 10 times better? At the end of the day, a helmet is responsible for one thing: making your noggin not crack if you fall off your bike. The Classon Helmet makes no claim to be better at this than any other helmet.

Another question is the moral hazard that it could produce. It is crucially important to be aware of your surroundings when biking in the city. One instance of a lapse of focus and you could find yourself looking at an open car door directly in front of you at a speed of no return. So could effectively outsourcing some of your focus to the artificial intelligence of a helmet create a type of moral hazard while biking? What, after all, is your blind spot other than the place you could turn your head around to look at if you didn’t have a helmet that would do it for you. Could this helmet have the unintended effect of making you a lazier biker?

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OK, now the Cool side.

Listen, you only got one dome piece and you gotta protect it. $300 could seem like a relatively modest investment when you consider the importance of your cognitive functioning, to say nothing of the difference in lifetime earnings between having a working brain and having a damaged brain. Such a traumatic bike accident caused Brooklynite Zach Schwartz to make a whole map of death in New York. Biking can be dangerous. Why not get extra help?

The helmet isn’t about protecting your head in an accident so much as it is about preventing you from having the accident in the first place. Letting you know that there’s a car behind you is super important in situations where it matters most: turning, pulling around an open door or double-parked car. The brake lights sound like maybe the best feature, although at the same time not many bike accidents come from getting rear-ended. Still, letting the cars behind you know that you’re slowing down can do nothing but increase your safety, particularly at night, when it’s harder to see. The turn signals sound fine, too, although if they only work when you signal with your arm then … you already just signaled with your arm.

So what do you think? Do the safety features make up for the high price? Do you think it’ll make you a lazier biker? Or is it worth some extra money to protect that squishy, complicated, central processing unit upstairs?

P.S. We looked back at our last Cool or Dumb segment and the commenters seem to have taken the side that the anti-microbial silver pillowcase is Cool.

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Organizations: Kickstarter
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