Looking for an idiot with a god complex? Just keep your eyes peeled for the helmetless cyclist wearing headphones. But Royal College of Art Graduate Gemma Roper is looking to change that. She thinks she’s come up with a way for cyclists to listen to tunes as they ride, without diminishing their awareness of their environment: a specially designed pair of headphones that can vibrate the music directly into your brain through a bike helmet, while leaving your ears wide open to hear the road.
Dubbed Safe + Sound, the helmet places bone conduction modules on the strap of a standard bicycle helmet strap. These modules take the whatever jam you’re listening to and converts them into a high-frequency vibration which is then beamed directly to your cochleas without ever passing through the ear. The result? If you wear this helmet, you’ll feel as if you’re “hearing” music softly playing directly in your brain, even as your ears stay alert for the tell-tale signs of screeching brakes, honking horns, and oncoming traffic.
There’s nothing new about bone conduction technology. You can actually buy a pair of bone conduction headphones for as low as $50 from Amazon. But the major design innovation here is integrating them into a helmet. That said, Safe + Sound’s conduction modules aren’t stuck there. They can also be removed, transforming into a more stylish pair of over-the-ear cans when you’re not on the road, adding a versatile twist.
Biking while listening to music is, of course, still potentially more distracting and dangerous than keeping your full attention on your surroundings. But for regular bike commuters, the temptation to listen to music or a podcast while riding can be irresistible. Roper equates the Safe + Sound experience to listening to music playing through a speaker in a room, as opposed to isolating yourself in a pair of monitors. Sure, you might miss some detail, but at least you’re not shutting yourself off from the world…let alone an out-of-control truck blaring its horn for you to get out of the way.
You can read more about the Safe + Sound headphones here.