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‘Invisible' bicycle helmet - an airbag for the head

LONDON - A new “invisible” bicycle helmet that uses technology similar to a vehicle airbag has been developed in Sweden.

The Hövding device, worn around the neck, is designed to shoot a protective, inflatable nylon hood around the user's head within one tenth of a second of impact. 

Designers Terese Alstin and Anna Haupt said they were tired of traditional hard plastic designs that were unfashionable and ruined their hair.   

“I don’t want anything on my head,” said Alstin. “I don’t want my hair to be destroyed.”  

The pair began to work on the device in 2005 when they were studying Industrial Design at Sweden’s University of Lund. 

Over the next seven years the pair engineered, refined and tested the collar, which can monitor a cyclist's movements more than 200 times a second using an inbuilt computer, sensors and gyro. 

If it senses a collision, a small gas canister held in the back of the collar inflates the protective cover within milliseconds.

“We had to simulate all known accidents,” Alstin said, adding that they had enlisted the help of professional cyclists to help them develop it. "Everything from an icy road crash to getting hit by a car."

Haupt added that the air pressure remains constant for several seconds allowing a cyclist to withstand multiple head impacts during the same accident before it starts to deflate.

“It’s actually three or four times better in terms of shock absorbance,” Alstin said. “And that’s the most important factor. It covers more of the head - including the entire neck - than traditional helmets."

The pair have also come up with a series of fashionable color designs for the collar, which retails online for 399 Euros ($536).