Beanies and wool hats are a whole lot cozier and more comfortable than hard ski helmets. Ninety-nine percent of the time they’re perfectly adequate for keeping your head covered as you ski down a slope. You know the one time that you’ll really wish you’d opted for the latter instead of the former, though? Answer: The time that you need a hard helmet.
A new product created by two researchers — a biomedical engineer and a product designer — from Queensland University of Technology in Australia could bring us the best of both worlds. They’ve developed a type of form-shifting beanie that transforms from soft to head-protecting hard when an impact takes place.
“What we’ve created is a beanie that is as safe as a helmet,” Rob Joseph, co-founder of Anti-Ordinary, told Digital Trends. “[Under the wool outer layer is a layer made] using a unique blend of non-Newtonian materials. These materials start off soft and malleable, like a soft rubber, but when impacted instantly changes state and hardens. Materials with this molecular structure have been used in things like kneepads and elbow guards for riding dirtbikes previously, but by themselves they don’t have the properties to be really able to absorb all the force like a helmet should. We’ve patented a unique layering system that allows [us] to create a helmet that exceeds alpine helmet standards, while still being extremely comfortable.”
Joseph said that the tech is designed to be used for activities like skiing, cycling, and skating, although the team is also working to design patients for people likely to suffer falls for medical reasons. Of course, the big question is whether it’ll work as well as advertised. After all, a helmet that is hard all the time make lack some of the “gee whiz” cool factor of this wearable, but at least it’s hard all the time. That means no transition period during which your noggin is left dangerously exposed.
“We’d never build a helmet that isn’t safe,” Joseph said. “We’re engineers and actions sports enthusiasts, and believe in being safe over everything. This helmet will pass the certifications required that the specific industry requires. The snow helmet will pass the CE EN1077 and ASTM F 2040 standards for alpine helmets. There is no electronics or mechanisms that make the material harden, it’s purely molecular level technology, meaning that the change in state is instant — with no delay.”
The only real delay will be the wait until you can get your hands on this futuristic helmet. Its creators plan to launch a Kickstarter campaign in January, after which they’ll use the funds raised to enter mass production. If you’re interested in getting involved, pre-registration is already underway.