Hedgehogs are known for being cute, and for having sharp spines. While neither barbed nor poisonous, these spines are nonetheless their first line of defense. When threatened by a predator, the hedgehog will curl into a tight ball with all of its spines pointing outward. How little hedgehogs are made remains a mystery.
Innovation often happens at the intersection of two seemingly unrelated ideas, for example, wearable technology and hedgehogs. While the market for a protective spine-suit is probably small, the idea of rolling into a ball to shield oneself from danger sparked the interest of German trauma surgeon Dr. Wolfgang Müller-Adam.
Dr. Müller-Adam envisions a system with as many as 20 separate gas-powered airbags that would protect the vulnerable parts of the body. Once activated, the system would force the body into a hedgehog-style ball while surrounding it with cushy pads. As in a modern automobile, MEMS smart sensors would trigger the device in response to crash-level forces; future enhancements might include longer-range sensors for preemptive action.
Other than early-adopters who fall down a lot, some obvious applications would include motorcyclists, bikers, skiers, construction workers and soldiers. Although elderly people are listed as a group that might also benefit, there is always the danger that having 20 airbags suddenly go off around you might do more damage than a fall.