1. Biomotion + retroreflectivity = being seen better in low light
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  • Biomotion + retroreflectivity = being seen better in low light

    By Sue Casement, 3M Storyteller

    Close up image of reflective material on a runner’s hands and knees

    Wrists, ankles, knees and torso. Those are the key locations where runners, bikers and construction workers should wear reflective material to help be the most visible.

    • Human figure, in the dark, with points of light reflected at joints and other important points on the body

      Shari Franklin Smith, 3M senior technical service specialist, says that anyone who wants to be seen better at night should focus on these areas.

      Shari has been studying biomotion – the motion of living organisms – for more than 10 years. She looks at how biomotion helps us detect whether or not we are seeing a person.

      “Our brains are wired to recognize human motion,” she says. “We don’t need to see everything to recognize a person. We take this into account when we are designing reflective clothing.”

      3M has done several studies on conspicuity – how readily visible or noticeable something is – and draws on external research to learn more. The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute studied high-visibility work apparel at night. Researchers made a surprising discovery: The placement of reflective material on the garment can be more significant than brightness and color. Adding material to motion points, like the arms, greatly increased visibility.

    • Shari Franklin Smith, 3M senior technical service specialist
      Shari Franklin Smith, 3M senior technical service specialist

      Shari’s advice for runners and bikers

      Look for garments that incorporate reflective material on the biomotion points, as general guidance find active wear with 15 square inches per view – on the front, sides and back.

      Runners: Look for shoes with reflective material and pants with reflective spots on the calf or ankle. Headlights from vehicles tend to pick up movement best down low. Running jackets should have rings on the wrists or arms and a ring around the body.

      Bikers: Look for jackets with reflective materials encircling the body including chest and back. Pants should have reflective material on the ankles and knees to help make motion more noticeable to drivers. Consider adding reflective material to your helmet.

    How does it work?

    Only a few dots in motion can tell you a lot about a person.