Google Glass helps cyclists in stress danger study

From left, Zimei Du, Michal Wasilewski, Kim Taylor and Renzo Pedreschi prepare for the revolutionary study. Picture: Ian Georgeson
From left, Zimei Du, Michal Wasilewski, Kim Taylor and Renzo Pedreschi prepare for the revolutionary study. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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CYCLE safety in the city has gathered speed with an innovative study in what stresses cyclists out on the roads.

Participants in the “Brains on Bikes” experiment donned Google Glass eyewear and an electroencephalography headset – which measures their stress patterns through the electrical activity in the brain – while cycling through Inverleith to determine what made them feel stressed. The nine-day study was the brainchild of Edinburgh University masters students Michal Wasilewski, Zimei Du and Renzo Pedreschi, and fourth-year undergraduate Kim 
Taylor, and the group hopes to use the data to help nervous cyclists by creating a mobile phone app to warn of dangers in the road.

Kim, 21, of Marchmont, said: “We are investigating people’s feelings of confidence and safety while cycling, because we have found that this plays an important role in whether people choose to cycle.

“We want to make what we have learned accessible to help people.”

The students recruited 15 people – ranging from experienced cyclists to novices – and sent them on a 15-minute cycle from Inverleith Park, taking in busy stretches of Ferry Road and Crewe Toll roundabout.

The Google Glass software recorded the cyclists talking about their thoughts and feelings as they pedalled, as well as what they saw.

Kim said the data will now be analysed and presented at a workshop in the coming weeks.

The project has been supported by Inverleith Neighbourhood Partnership (INP) which has launched a push to improve cycling and walking in the area.

Cycle safety is a concern for residents as certain streets can resemble “an obstacle course” for cyclists, said ward councillor Nigel Bagshaw.

He said: “It is a concern for residents, particularly vulnerable road users and families.

“I think there is a real need to improve the lot of pedestrians and cyclists in the city. Things are improving slowly.”

Cllr Bagshaw, INP convener, added: “If you are a confident cyclist then you are fine but we need to make sure everyone feels like they can cycle in the city without problems.”

The study has been welcomed by cycling campaigners who said the key issue was encouraging non-cyclists to get on their bikes.

Ian Maxwell, spokesperson for Spokes cycling campaign, said: “The problem we have in Edinburgh, as with everywhere else, is getting more people cycling who wouldn’t normally – as the more people do it, the better it will be for everyone.

“It won’t be the first time people have been asked their views but this actually illustrates what they are feeling.”

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