Full- body airbag for bik­ers

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - CC WEISS

LAST week’s Wear­able Tech­nolo­gies Con­fer­ence in Mu­nich show­cased the fu­ture of cut­tingedge wear­able de­sign.

While much of the ex­hibitor area was ded­i­cated to usual sus­pects like per­for­mance- track­ing sen­sors and wear­able cam­eras, there was one de­sign that im­me­di­ately stood out. Still just a rough con­cept in need of part­ners, the iGel protective sys­tem pro­poses a full- body airbag suit for pro­tect­ing mo­tor­cy­clists, bik­ers, skiers, and other hob­by­ists and pro­fes­sion­als.

Cur­rent- gen­er­a­tion wear­able airbags, in­clud­ing the Alpines­tars Tech- Air Street airbag sys­tem that won a Wear­able Tech­nolo­gies In­no­va­tion World Cup award at the con­fer­ence, use sen­sors to de­tect a crash and in­flate in mil­lisec­onds, pro­tect­ing the vi­tal bones and or­gans of the up­per body with a layer of cush­ion­ing. In con­cepts like the Safety Sphere, we’ve seen that some de­sign­ers think the pro­tec­tion level could be di­alled up a lot higher.

It may not look quite as dra­matic as the Safety Sphere, but the iGel protective sys­tem, a project headed by Ger­man trauma sur­geon Dr Wolf­gang Müller- Adam, en­vi­sions a sim­i­lar level of pro­tec­tion. In­stead of a limited in­flat­able vest around the torso, the iGel sys­tem would use up to 20 in­di­vid­ual ni­tro­gen- ac­ti­vated airbags to pro­tect the head, torso and lower body.

In­spired by the hedge­hog’s abil­ity to roll into a protective ball, Müller- Adam also imag­ines the ac­tu­a­tion of the sys­tem push­ing the torso and lower body into a fe­tal- style ball, fur­ther help­ing to mit­i­gate against in­jury. Just imag­ine the dif­fer­ence be­tween flail­ing around and smash­ing into the ground or an­other ve­hi­cle with­out any pro­tec­tion ver­sus rolling into the crash or fall as an airbag- cov­ered ball.

Like other airbag sys­tems, the iGel would use a se­ries of mi­cro­elec­trome­chan­i­cal sys­tem ( MEMS) smart sen­sors to de­tect crash- level forces and au­to­mat­i­cally in­flate around the wearer.

The iGel is an in­trigu­ing vi­sion for the fu­ture of pro­tec­tion, but there’s a lot of work to do to turn this con­cept into a prod­uct that works as ad­ver­tised and is com­fort­able to wear in real- life sce­nar­ios.

Given the proper back­ing, Müller- Adam be­lieves it will take about one to two years to ready a sim­ple, low- speed iGel protective sys­tem, sim­i­lar in aim to Ac­tivePro­tec­tive’s sys­tem, for use by the el­derly and oth­ers at risk of fall­ing. We’re still at least three to four years away from the more tech­ni­cal high- speed mo­tor­cy­cle ver­sion. In ad­di­tion to the el­derly and mo­tor­cy­clists, iGel men­tions eques­tri­ans, skiers, con­struc­tion work­ers and sol­diers as pos­si­ble tar­get de­mo­graph­ics for the tech­nol­ogy. — Giz­mag. com.

PHOTO: iGEL SYS­TEMS

This wear­able full- body airbag is the vi­sion of a Ger­man trauma sur­geon who was in­spired by a hedge­hog’s abil­ity to tuck into a ball.

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