Instinct is a set of bicycle handlebars that integrates gps navigation directions into your ride in an unobtrusive, natural way by driving your intuition through subtle, haptic feedback.
While there are a large variety of other types of haptic feedback that could have been chosen, like vibration, it's important to remember the rumbling, busy, potentially gloved context that this product would be used in. One of the first explorations involved similar pneumatic feedback seen in the final design.
Shape-changing, haptic automotive steering wheel prototype
During the weekend before one of the Media Lab's sponsor weeks, I worked with Felix Heibeck to design and build an application-based demo of the new soft-materials Pneui project my research group has been exploring.
Our implementation was aimed at the driving context but after playing around with it, we realized the cycling context had a much more unsolved use case and problem space. This prompted an exploration into how people even use and hold a bicycle while riding and figuring out ways to measure and adapt to those differences.
I also created a quick and dirty peel'n'stick capacitive touch sensing system that I could place on a bar, pole, or existing handlebar and would give real-time readings as to where someone was placing their hands.
This allowed me to record some hard numbers as well as gave me the opportunity to have the final prototype customize on the fly where the haptic feedback should be sent. With that in place, I moved onto molding the silicone airbags to test inflation properties and animations.
Once that had been casted, molded, and tested, I moved into creating the final prototype to be used to test out my ideas and really communicate the feeling of the experience I'd been hypothesizing.
The biggest challenge for the final prototype was by far the electronics. After a couple of failures and iterations on the electrical engineering and board design, I decided to go with a somewhat modular system. The main processor and common components were laid out on a separate bottom layer while the motors, air valves, and second power supply were kept on their own layer on top.
The final board involved a stepper motor to create the friction on the fork, a potentiometer to measure the turning value, and 4 air valves to pump air into the airbags and pneumatically actuate the steel piece.
Partway into the project, I also realized that a fully functioning system like this would need some method of notifying the riders, drivers, and pedestrians in the surrounding area about upcoming turns as well.
To maintain visibility and have a place to store extra electronics, I began explorations into integrating a turn signal into a hybrid tail light / fender.
I created a rough prototype of a thin, lightweight, strong composite material using marine epoxy and burlap fabric. The surface texture didn't come out as smooth as I'd like nor is the color ideal, so I'd like to explore different fabrics that are smoother and darker.
For the light itself, there were few options on the market (especially for bicycles) that had integrated turn signal functions without being ugly, bulky, and unwieldy. I decided to use red dye, a custom wax mold, and Smooth-on's Crystal Clear urethane plastic to mold my own lens.
I also began prototyping the electronics for the light itself. I designed the board to have 4 led's that could be either full-bright on, pulsed in a wave in either direction, or off. You can view more details about the board's progress on my electronics page.
The full-fledged system still has a lot more work to be done, but I truly believe that a haptic solution for bicycle navigation would do wonders to help people open their eyes and see the world around them as it passes by.