Bicycles may be a Key to Consumer Adoption of Augmented Reality

Future Cities Catapult is a British-based company focusing on analyzing issues in today’s urban environments and the development of innovations defining the urban society of tomorrow. The company helps innovators and futurists to develop concepts and technologies that aid in this goal. It focuses on three core themes: promoting healthy cities, building resilience in urban infrastructure, and designing strategies to help cities adopt and finance smarter technologies.

One trend in urban environments is the increasing use of bicycles in urban traffic. In a recent video, the company promoted five technologies that may help in a safe and enhanced environment for cyclists.

The short video describes and shows these technologies.

The first solution, which the company calls augmented path network, is basically the use of a head mounted display for cyclists. While such solutions already exist, it sees the current use form as more of a one way street, where the HMD or AR glasses provide information to the user-based input. The company does foresee more of a two way street where the AR solution talks to the city network and vice versa. It can also calculate and even anticipate the best possible route for the cyclists. The company also developed a similar solution for vision impaired people by using a 3D sound map.

The second solution is based on using the same augmented reality headset, but provides directions based on surrounding landmarks, rather than step by step directions. In the long run, this will enable cyclists to develop a sense for the environment rather than replacing this sense with a technology solution.

The third idea adds pollution-free routing to an augmented reality headset. Communicating with air analyzer stations in the city, the solution is capable of suggesting alternative routes in the city to the user with the lowest air pollution. This may not be the shortest route but maybe the healthiest. This is a very intriguing use of the same technology by adding another layer on top.

The fourth idea describes a way for cyclists to communicate with truck drivers, to enable the technology to allow the cyclists to see the blind spots of the driver. The company says that one of the main reasons for cyclist fatalities in London is trucks turning and not seeing cyclists in their blind spots. There are several technologies being investigated for this purpose.

The last idea is to add navigation functionality to rental bikes available in many cities today (including Manhattan).

All these ideas are developed as prototypes and we may have to see in what form they will be adopted. Nevertheless, for most implementations a head mounted display is either helpful or even necessary. This could mean that bicycle riders may become the first large consumer adoption market for AR glasses. – NH

Analyst Comment

As a keen cyclist, I have been promoting the idea of AR for cyclists for some time. Sports cyclists are obsessed with their “numbers” – speed, heart rate, power, cadence (pedalling speed) as well as using GPS, so are a natural target market. They also wear special glasses and have helmets which can hold batteries. They also spend a lot on technology! (BR)