Regardless of what part of the world you reside in, bicycling is a risky proposition. While communities have gone out of their way to create paths and carve out space on roads, danger still lurks around every turn and intersection. Many bicyclists feel that they are literally putting their lives on the line when they leave for a leisurely ride.
At first glance, a bicycle that reads minds seems more the plot of a science fiction movie depicting a future world, dystopian or otherwise, where sentient bikes rule the world. Yet, on the other side of the globe, researchers claim that such an innovative form of transport exists in the real world.
Achieving Synergy Between Riders and Bikes
Researchers from Monash University, IBM Australia, and the University of Southampton in the UK put their collective knowledge together to create an e-bicycle. The first of its kind, the bike is intuitive enough to identify when a cyclist is in grave danger based on peripheral awareness of a cyclist’s surroundings and how they react.
One of the researchers noted that many accidents happen at intersections, an area where awareness by all vehicles, motorized or otherwise, should be at a heightened level. That started the process of developing technology to buy cyclists time in these split-second situations.
After more than a year of development, the current prototype, named Ena, is undergoing rigorous testing. The e-bike is supported by an electroencephalogram that takes the form of an electrode cap worn by the cyclists. Focusing on the visual processing part of the brain data, data from the occipital lobe goes to a mini-computer located in a backpack work by the rider. From there, signals provide much-needed data.
Narrow peripheral vision, a sign that the cyclists sense dangerous conditions ahead, will halt acceleration, allowing the rider to continue forward motion at a slower rate. Conversely, wide peripheral vision gives the “all clear” and enables the bike to accelerate.
The research team’s overall philosophy is based on the belief that the best cyclists are in tune with their bikes. The synergy between bicycle and rider keeps awareness of surroundings at a much higher level. Dangers that could result in accidents are noticed immediately as are the enjoyable moments that come with traveling on an open and safe road.
If successful, these cutting-edge conveyances could find their way to the United States.