The bicycle that ‘reads’ the mind and could make cycling safer

News > World

By STEM Caribbean | Posted on July 1, 2020

Researchers have developed a prototype for an e-bicycle supported by electroencephalogram (EEG) technology.| Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Cyclists are among the most vulnerable travelers on the road worldwide. In December of 2018, the World Health Organization launched the Global status report on road safety 2018.  This report states that the number of annual road traffic deaths has reached 1.35 million each year.  According to the report, almost half of these road traffic deaths are among travelers with the least protection – motorcyclists, cyclists, and pedestrians.  

To help lower the number of bike accidents, researchers have developed a prototype for an e-bicycle supported by electroencephalogram (EEG) technology. Researchers from Monash University, IBM Research – Australia, and the University of Southampton in the UK make up the research team who hopes to make cycling safer.   

A news release recently published by Monash University highlights the unprecedented increase in cycling in Australia due to the COVID-19 pandemic social distancing guidelines. Consequently, the increase in more cyclists on the road increases the risk of accidents, as noted in the article.  

The e-bicycle can scan the brain’s electrical activity based on the rider’s field of view which changes when potential danger is imminent. A research paper detailing the study with 20 participants has been published in the ACM Digital Library.   

Ena, the novel bike, uses EEG technology to monitor the electrical activity of the brain. This helps determine when the rider is aware of his/her surroundings. The research paper notes that changes to the field of view in peripheral awareness affects human performance. When we perceive a threat, our vision narrows and affects our actions. Thus, a wide field of view could help riders cycle to navigate the environment more safely.   

The researchers created the e-bicycle using a regular bicycle and installed an engine in the front wheel, a  battery on the bike’s body, and an engine controller linked to an Arduino, which is a microcontroller that can receive signals corresponding to the processed EEG to regulate the bike’s engine.   

An EEG cap-like device, placed on the rider’s head, monitors brain activity and sends signals to the microcontroller. If a wide field of view is detected, then the bike’s engine helps the rider go faster. A narrow field of view restricts the engine’s ability to help the rider cycle faster, allowing them to slow down and respond to potential danger accordingly—for example a car cutting in front of them.   

This research could be beneficial in different applications. Monash University’s news release quotes lead researcher Josh Andres from IBM, who says that “The new research shows promising results on how humans can work together with intelligent systems in everyday life to extend their abilities.”  

He further goes on to say that, “There are several scenarios where technology like this could be beneficial, from increasing safety and response time for emergency personnel to potentially monitoring a patient’s peripheral vision to learn about a condition, right through to being used in sports to help soccer players develop their peripheral vision.”   

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