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Buzz around new BMW lid

Published: 23 March 2016

BMW are developing a helmet that uses haptics – the transmission of information via touch – rather than the more common visual or audible signals.

A few years ago ‘haptic’ wasn’t a common word, but now – thanks to smartphones – it’s one that most of us have experience of. The vibrations used by phones to send feedback via their touchscreens is the most common example.

BMW’s new helmet patent describes a system where a ring of haptic actuators is mounted in the lining of the helmet, circling the rider’s head. Each actuator can vibrate – or possibly apply pressure – to a different part of the head.

The obvious application is for sat-navs. Instead of having to look down at a GPS at dash level or straining to hear directions from speakers, a rider using a haptic helmet could simply feel a vibration on one side of his forehead to tell them which direction to turn. The patent explains that the frequency of the buzzes would get faster the closer the turning gets.

BMW showed a concept helmet with a head-up display earlier this year, and this haptic functionality could well work in harmony with that.

When the vehicle-to-vehicle communication system being developed by a consortium of manufacturers – including BMW – is ready for production, this haptics helmet could help communicate other spacial awareness indicators, such as a buzz at one side of the back of your head to warn of a car in your blind spot.

This technology isn’t likely to be in dealers any time soon, but there’s no doubt that it is coming.

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