At some point in just about every sci-fi movie, there's a scene where a robot scans a room and the camera shows it reading tons of data about its surroundings. If Future Cities Catapult has its way, you'll see something similar when you get on your bike and flip down your visor.
The developers at Future Cities Catapult have been building augmented-reality bike helmets that overlay important information on top of one's surroundings. By integrating a heads-up display (HUD) into cycling visors, the group hopes it can improve bikers' spatial and contextual awareness, giving them a firmer grip on the surrounding world instead of requiring them to constantly reassess things and rely solely on instinct.
"Learning from observation and our own experience, we see that cyclists often take bearings when paused at traffic lights," Claire Mookerjee, project lead for urbanism at Future Cities Catapult, wrote on the website Connected Streets. "This interface could essentially simply provide the next direction, reinforcing the journey."
While there are HUD-style goggles on the market already, they don't provide much information beyond push notifications from connected smartphones. Future Cities Catapult's prototype goes far beyond that limited functionality. The interface can show a biker the next direction on a planned route without requiring him or her to glance down at a phone.
The prototype helmet also includes a device meant to help fill in blind spots. Using machine-to-machine technology, Future Cities Catapult built a system that communicates the location of other vehicles and projects surrounding traffic into the display.
Future Cities Catapult also designed other accessories for improving the biking experience, including a handlebar-mounted air-quality gauge. This device works in tandem with the rest of the connected bike system to provide rerouting options for bikers that can take them through areas with cleaner air.
The project is still in its early testing phases as Future Cities Catapult works out kinks and adds new functionality. It is considering adding other accessories that provide bikers with even more information. The system already sounds like the Internet of Things but built around a single bike. All signs point to a safer, more efficient future for bikers.