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This $800 belt has airbags to protect your hips

Falls are an enormous problem for the elderly — and one company believes the solution is an $800 belt with airbags. Hip’Air from Helite looks like an overstuffed belt, only with sensors inside that can tell when you’re about to fall, allegedly within 0.2 seconds. Then, two airbags inflate right above your hips to absorb the impact.

It’s not surprising that a company that makes motorcycle airbag vests would believe that their technology will also work for other types of falls. Uninflated, the HipAir is surprisingly light and has a plastic buckle on the front; inside is an inflator and a sensor. Arrows tell you which way to wear the belt, and it beeps if you put it on the wrong way. It’s not uncomfortable, but it’s not invisible either, and it would be obvious under or above almost all clothing.

A Verge reporter tried the device and, as promised, the airbags did inflate in time. Once it inflates, the airbags are huge, like wearing a life preserver. Hip’Air claims it absorbs 90 percent of the impact from a regular fall, whereas a regular hip protector (which is more like padded underwear than a belt) supposedly only absorbs 10 percent of the impact. Of course, this 90 percent claim is theoretical because you can’t order elderly people to wear your device and then fall, and the technology is too new for a clinical trial anyway.

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