Lifestyle , ,

New Marshmallow Helmets

By: Shauna Ayres MPH: Health Behavior candidate 2017

Stanford University’s David Camarillo is a bioengineer researching ways to reduce head injury and concussions with new bicycle helmet designs. Camarillo and his team compared an airbag helmet to a traditional foam helmet and found promising results. This type of helmet is a pouch worn around the neck and inflates upon impact by chemical catalysts exactly like a car airbag. They were developed to help forego the excuse that a traditional helmet is dorky and as a direct result, decrease bike rider head injury.

Camarillo conducted drop tests with a dummy that suggested airbag helmets may reduce impact by as much as six-fold as compared to foam helmets. However, the drop tests were done with optimal pre-inflated airbag helmets and real life scenarios don’t guarantee maximum air pressure 100% of the time. In addition, more tests need to be conducted on rotational movements and impacts that are often associated with concussions. Camarillo is optimistic for the use of this technology in the future, but feels that more research, testing, and product innovation is still needed. Developers are working on developing a smarter helmet by embedding sensors that detect the severity of an impact and compensate accordingly and increasing the reliability and efficiency of inflation.

Currently the airbag helmets are only available in some European countries and not yet marketed to US consumers. But keep an eye out for these airbag helmets, or marshmallow helmets, because they will likely be in the future of bike safety and injury prevention.

Additional Bike Safety Tips:

  1. Wear reflective clothing, especially at night.
  2. Turn on front and back lights during dusk, evening, and nighttime hours.
  3. Always use arm signals when turning.
  4. Follow traffic signs and signals as a car would.
  5. Be aware of your surroundings: don’t wear earbuds or use your phone while riding.

For more tips go to

Kubota, T. (2016, Oct 4). Air bag bike helmet inflates to protect head. Futurity.

Kurt, M., Laksari, K., Kuo, C., Grant, G. A., & Camarillo, D. B. (2016). Modeling and optimization of airbag helmets for preventing head injuries in bicycling. Annals of Biomedical Engineering, doi:10.1007/s10439-016-1732-1 [doi]

Bluejay, M. (2013) How to not get hit by cars: Important lessons in bicycle safety.

  • clueckin

    What an interesting idea. I am not a bicyclist, but is looking dorky one of the biggest barriers to people wearing helmets? Or are there other barriers that this may or may not influence? I wonder if the cost of something like this, which I assume is a one-time use, would be prohibitive for some. It is always cool to see innovation, but I like the researcher's priority for continued testing for comparative effectiveness.