The testudo, or "tortoise" formation, was a type of arrangement that the Roman legions commonly used. The soldiers formed a completely enclosed shell with their shields to provide protection on all sides and over the head, similar to a tortoise shell. The testudo was used by the Roman legionaries to defend themselves from arrows as they marched forward towards the city gates or stood still in defense.
Inspired by this "tortoiseshell" arrangement, the Korean designer Seunghwan Ra has developed a modern application of the ancient military technique in emergency situations, such as earthquakes: it is called proper testudo.
Testudo, multi-functional helmet against earthquakes
Imagine a kind of emergency lamp that is there, hanging on the wall, lit even in case of problems. If there are natural disasters (and in particular earthquakes) a light source guides people towards an escape route: Testudo will simply guide towards itself.
Once detached from the wall, the helmet (not very different in size from those for bikes) allows users to place it on the head, with an additional cover for the shoulders: at this point, a part of the helmet lowers on the chest and special airbags inflate to provide impact protection.
End. The vital organs of the Testudo wearer become rubble proof.
The road to the final prototype
As always happens in the case of objects that have multiple functions, the earthquake helmet has also gone through various stages. Progressive additions have perfected the original concept by adding additional protections (one, very important, for the cervical spine) and even a headlight which then provides useful light to get ahead.
The crucial element (i.e. the idea of an integrated inflatable protection) came along the way, allowing Ra to apply principles and dynamics of traditional air mattresses.
Here is the first prototype.
How about? The next time we are surprised by earthquakes we could thank the Romans for their ingenuity and foresight. And if you don't happen to have such a helmet on hand, maybe it's time to invest in one tiny house anti-seismic :)