IBM, Monash and Southampton Uni develop mind-reading ebike to save lives

The bike can read a rider's brain activity to detect if they are in danger.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Researchers from Monash University, IBM Research Australia, and the UK's University of Southampton have developed an ebike prototype that can "read" a cyclist's mind via their brain activity to prevent potential bike accidents.

The prototype, named Ena, uses an electroencephalogram (EEG) system to read a rider's electrical brain activity through an EEG cap to determine when there are changes to a rider's peripheral awareness. Signals that are detected via the cap feeds into a small computer that converts these signals into instructions for the bike's engine. 

The system can determine if a rider is aware of their broad surroundings, which allows the engine of the bike to speed up. However, if the rider's peripheral awareness narrows -- which typically happens when it responds to a threat, such a car cutting them off or there is an obstruction to a bike path -- the system will immediately stop the engine of the bike, slowing down the rider.

According to the research paper [PDF], changes to the field of view in peripheral awareness is often linked with a decrease in the quality of human performance.

"Work has shown that a relaxed and open mood can be conducive to widening our perceptual field to reach peripheral awareness. This can result in being more coordinated and aware of the environment; as such, helping users to access peripheral awareness can benefit exertion experiences like cycling where the majority of accidents occur at intersection crossings where peripheral awareness is important," the paper said.

As part of the research, a study with 20 participants was undertaken, revealing that peripheral awareness could be used to align human-machine integration with internal bodily processes.

"The new research shows promising results on how humans can work together with intelligent systems in everyday life to extend their abilities," Josh Andres said.

"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."

Florian 'Floyd' Mueller, director of the Exertion Games Lab in the Faculty of Information Technology at Monash University and co-creator of the technology, added the research shows there is an opportunity to bring human-computer interaction experiences in real-time.

"Through our research, we've been able to align internal bodily processes, such as neural activity, with machine integration. Via Ena, we are able to explore technology that integrates with the human body to amplify the happiness that being physically active offers, while keeping you safer," he said.

The research paper detailed the technique could be used to support other experiences that also require a narrow field of view for focused attention, such as a football striker selecting a target in order to score a goal, a doctor performing a precise medical procedure, or a patient interacting with a medical device for self-assessment.

Related Coverage

Editorial standards