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Direction indicators for skiers

in the form of a backpack with blinky LED array
 
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Skiers, notably those at the novice end of the scale, are directionally unpredictable to other skiers. Collisions dent the confidence, the image and occasionally the skier's body; collisions are undesirable, even at low speeds, especially in an increasingly litigious climate, which is perhaps forced by restrictions in holiday insurance payouts. Anyway, so much of the preamble.

How about a bendy electronic information panel, about 24x12 inches, worn on the skier's back? Straps to be long enough so that it could overlie a backpack, and clippable to wear the panel with crossed straps (keeps it from slipping sideways). One horizontal waist strap, on which could be carried the battery pack and operation circuitry. The latter part I confess I would have to subcontract to someone else's expertise.

I visualise clusters of red and orange LEDs, displaying indications from voice activated commands in the ever-so-clever circuitry (or perhaps even a movement rhythm-conscious system). For example, a novice skier who is making a series of turns in a textbook manner will plant a pole in approximately the pivot point of their intended turn. If the skier coupled this action with the word "left", the LED backpack could light up all the orange dots on its left side. A skier like myself, on a piste testing the limit of my competence, may have to programme the voice box to respond to a pair of mild expletives instead of "left" and "right". On hearing some trigger word repeated many times, the panel could light up all the red lights so skiers (at least those above me) could avoid my vicinity for the period in which my panel alerts them to my lack of control. Volume increases in this trigger word could be reflected in flashing frequency of the lights or their intensity.

Further modifications with a far more complex set of sensors and circuitry, as your panel 'learns' your style, could use turn-rhythm and piste-gradient to allow the panel to pre-empt your route. Granted, an entire piste of skiers wearing these would probably be too confusing, but if limited to those who need them most (and those who are public-spirited enough to allow other skiers this attempt at directional avoidance planning) they could go some way to limiting collisions on busier slopes.
badgers, Mar 29 2003

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       the motion-sensitive model is definitely the way to go. stick a little gyroscope in there, and have the logic "learn" your posture just before a turn. all skiiers have some sort of shift in weight before the actual turn is made, and so it should be trivial for the controller to map these patterns.
urbanmatador, Mar 29 2003
  

       I taught 8-10 year olds how to ski in Cleveland one winter for a few months, after getting mowed over by child-sized human cannons on the bunny slope for a few weeks I began to wish they'd make beeping noises like trucks backing up.
futurebird, Mar 29 2003
  

       Even if the gyroscope method (sounds catholic) didn't pan out, each ski stick (or whatever the technical term for those rods in your hands are) could have a button at the top that you could press to indicate your intended turn. +
sambwiches, Mar 29 2003
  

       [sambwiches] the word you're looking for is "pole"   

       and yeah, the buttons would work. i'm thinking that a novice skiier doesn't want anything more to worry about since it's hard enough to just ski. by employing gyroscopes (catholic or otherwise) and predictive, self-educating logic, the system works without any conscious input form the skiier.
urbanmatador, Mar 29 2003
  

       Skiing accidents are most often the result of reckless/overconfident speed nuts hurting mostly themselves.
I think this idea would do more to help novices 'feel' safe but wouldn't actually reduce any injuries.
Basically, if some hot dog is whipping down too fast for traffic or conditions, not watching crossing runs, he/she's gonna plaster into someone or something regardless of how many lights, directional signals, warning indicators you could wear.
roby, Mar 30 2003
  

       cheers everyone. I didn't want to be too ambitious with the motion sensors part, but as a learning system it would have all sorts of applications. May even replace instructors ... "bend ze knEEEs!!"

roby, yes, it is the nutters who cause the most spectacular accidents, and by appropriate karma it is themselves they hurt most, but low-speed accidents even without actual injuries do much to ruin the experience for the novice. Myself, I was reasonably confident at the end of one week (not my first), and my own judgement of the convergence of vectors just failed me (I was doing lots of small turns in a fairly direct line down the slope, and a Frenchman was doing slow-ish traverse-turn-traverse-turn but then unexpectedly halted). So I knocked into him, not hard, but enough to give a third motion direction to my own vector (i.e. up!) and I landed 20 feet down the slope and winded myself. Wasn't hurt, after getting my breath back, but didn't ski again for three years. Now, if the Frenchman had had blinky lights on his back (er, he would need them over his arms/shoulders too, I suppose - like a little short superhero cape) I would have known he was going to stop and I could have altered my downhill vector to avoid him. I think (well, I hope) the 'hot dog' who just doesn't watch for these sorts of accidents is reasonably well penalised by the insurance system and personal accident claims.
badgers, Mar 30 2003
  
      
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