Biking is an enjoyable way to not only exercise but to commute around town. On the other hand, riding a bike can be a stressful experience. Bicyclists have to constantly be aware of their surroundings, safety dodging other people as well as traffic. A new mapping application called MindRider hopes to improve biking experiences by creating mental maps of routes with the help of a special helmet.
Developed by MIT, the MindRider helmet records the electrical activity of the brain while the cyclist is pedaling down the road. Using EEG sensors, this technology distinguishes between locations where the rider is concentrating hard and those where they are coasting. The MindRider app then maps that experience in real-time and categorizes physical locations according to if they were hotspots or sweetspots. If a rider got lost on a road and their stress level increased, the map would show that section of town as a hotspot.
A team of beta testers has already been using MindRider extensively throughout New York City with the goal to create a map and guidebook to the city’s biking infrastructure. Although each rider’s experiences are different, patterns are already emerging. One of the members on the development team demonstrated that the Manhattan Bridge was a more calming ride for him than crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. The hope is that by the end of 2014, MindRider will be able to produce a mental signature map of all of Manhattan.
MindRider might go along way for providing better experiences for cyclists. By analyzing their everyday routes, riders can see how their own hotspots and sweetspots are influenced by the patterns of particular roads with its pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic. It could also challenge bicyclists to use the technology as a sort of mind-training game. If a person knows which locations cause the most stress, he or she could teach the mind to relax a little more in those areas.
Moreover, the MindRider helmet and mapping application could inform public policy about the most stressful areas of the city for bicyclists. If a large number of bicyclists show that a particular location is extremely nerve-racking, city planners could take actions to reduce the tension for riders, motorists, and pedestrians. Columbia University has a similar project underway to develop mental maps of pedestrians and their responses to environmental stimuli of cities with the anticipation that it will someday inform urban planning.
For now, the MindRider helmet and application are still under development. The MindRider held a Kickstarter campaign in order to fund their New York City project.
You can see a map showing the state of mind for MindRider’s collected during July 2014 in the area of Brooklyn, New York.
“MIT’s MindRider helmet draws mental maps as you bike.” http://archinect.com/news/article/107714855/mit-s-mindrider-helmet-draws-mental-maps-as-you-bike
“New York City Today: Head Trip.” http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/06/10/new-york-today-head-trip/