Update: Our latest work-in-progress around helmets:

What happens if your heart is open to everyone but you?

Open Heart Helmet visualizes realtime heart rate data on a bicycle helmet. We examine how it can facilitate social exertion experiences.



A new perspective on heart rate monitors

Heart rate monitors are often designed for use by individual sportspeople. Yet, social engagement in sports can be a strong motivator, especially for amateur enthusiasts. This research explores the design and use of heart rate monitors to support social exertion experiences.

Design & prototyping

The current prototypes contain straps that we designed specifically to fit an iPod Touch onto any helmet. This functional prototype worked great for our user sessions, where participants used their own helmets. The iPod Touch is wirelessly connected to a laptop that creates the visuals based on the data from the Zephyr heart rate sensor, which the user wears as a chest strap.

We are currently developing an interactive helmet which whole surface can light up and be used as a visualization of the wearer’s heart rate.


We equipped pairs of cyclists with displays on the back of their helmets and studied how they experienced the resulting unconventional access to heart rate data: our design made it more difficult for participants to access their own heart rate than it was to access their partner’s.


We found a number of key design dimensions for systems making heart rate available to others:

  • Accessibility of heart rate data
  • Support for interpretation
  • Influences on heart rate, including wearer, observer and the environment

We have also identified four design strategies for designers who aim to
support social exertion experiences using heart rate data:

  • Limit direct access to one’s heart rate
  • Provide minimal interpretation of data
  • Provide heart rate targets and anchor points
  • Set challenges to support unconventional experiences


We hope that our contribution helps to promote the use of heart rate data in social exertion experiences, and further, may guide designers in considering technology support for social exertion experiences.


Thanks to the Zephyr for providing us with the BioHarness sensor sets on which our prototypes were built. Also many thanks to the people inside the lab for all the support during the development, study and writing, and those outside the lab who provided their valuable feedback, including Angelino Russo, Hugh Davies and Alexander Langman Hender.