It seems obvious. Deflection reduces impact force. But, sometimes achieving the obvious is complicated. The new Knox Kinesis body armor range incorporates a hard outer shell that can slide across the inner padding. When subjected to an oblique impact, the deflection of that shell can reduce energy transmitted to the human body by as much as 25 percent.
Knox is a UK-based company that’s been producing affordable, effective, retro-fittable body armor, back protectors and other protective gear since the idea that motorcyclists need impact as well as abrasion protection has been around. The Kinesis eureka moment came one day in their lab; while routinely measuring the forces transmitted through body armor, a piece slipped out of place, reducing the measured force of the impact. The trick was creating a product that could replicated the advantage in the real world.
There is precedent for such a design. Lazer SuperSkin helmets attempt something similar, mimicking the human skull’s skin covering to create deflection on impact. The human body evolved with all sorts of similar examples. In addition to the scalp sliding and tearing to reduce impact forces to the head, the brain itself sits in a sack of fluid that prompts slide over squish.
The Kinesis design attaches a hard plastic shell to its gel-like padding with four stretchy tabs. Normally, they simple retain that shell in the middle of the padding, but they’re capable of stretching, allowing the shell to move around in an oblique impact, reducing the force transmitted to the wearer.
Kinesis armor doesn’t appear to have reached the market yet, but expect to see it incorporated into leathers and available as a standalone product soon.