GPS Navigation For Cyclists With The iPhone

Wild and crazy Zeptotools has come up with an ingenious way to incorporate an iPhone’s GPS navigation application and an HMD display with the act of riding a bicycle, creating the first cell phone based bicycle navigation system that I am aware of.   They call this system ARider.

While there are many, many detractors of this system – the folks over at Zeptotools do deserve some credit for putting together a prototype of their idea even if it doesn’t prove to be commercially viable.  One has to admit that what they have done in combining these technologies together is just plain cool and that the world of cell phone navigation, GPS tracking applications, and the iPhone will never be the same.

Zeptotools is an iPhone app developer who has created some very slick, very interesting applications. There current applications include ZeptoPad, ZeptoLiner, IRCon, iShodo, BullCam, Quick Pigeon, and Montblanc Pen. The short video to the right gives a really good impression with the type of stuff that these guys are putting out. Everything about it, the music, the cinematography, and even the way the people are dressed gives you all you need to know to understand what these guys are about. Cool stuff. Chic. Web 2.0. Etc.

ARider does not stray from this feel.  While still in the prototype phase, the design is sleek and appealing.  And even though they use Scotch tape to attach the HMD to the bike helmet it still looks really cool.  Here is a video of the GPS system in action to give a little flavor of what this device actually looks like.  It was put together by the folks at Zeptotools so you know it is going to have a cool music score (which it does).  So here it is:

Pretty cool if you ask me. A working prototype for cycling GPS navigation.

The Detractors

With anything so visionary you are going to get people who want to hate on it. The ARider GPS navigation system is no different. Just take a look at some of these comments about this revolutionary GPS tracking mapping device:

Putting your expensive smart phone on top of your bike helmet seems like a good way to destroy it and possibly yourself too, if you get into an accident, which is in turn made more likely by adding distracting displays to your field of view.

And this one:

Dangerous to your expensive iPhone and useless. The only way this would be slightly useful is if you were in a new, unfamiliar city. Urban cyclists, after a year or so of riding, don’t need a map to tell them how to get around their city. In fact, most of the pertinent information to cycling isn’t on any map, let alone Google. Isn’t cycling wonderful because of the freedom? Why would we want to make it more car-like and stick a HMD in front of us?

And another:

As a cyclist, I must say this is a great way to get badly injured while cycling. It’s bad enough to text while driving, but to be distracted on a bike is insanity.

This pretty much sums up the voices of dissent who are too short sighted to see just how cool this thing is. As a regular bike commuter I think that this devices is incredibly cool and could be extremely useful for a whole host of applications, not just GPS navigation related.

ARider and GPS Tracking

One of the coolest things about this application is that it offers an augmented reality.  Apache helicopter pilots experience the same sort of thing when they pilot their helicopter.  The main machine gun mounted on the underside of the helicopter is controlled by the turning of the head of the gunner.  His vision is completely augmented by his helmet and it does take a lot of training to get used to the effect that this has one’s vision.  But that doesn’t mean that this is bad.

For example, not military personnel say, “That sure seems like a good way to crash a multi-million dollar helicopter and waste all the man hours we spent training that pilot.”  That is just silly.  The fact is that augmented reality is powerful and useful tool for incorporating electronic inputs into our realm of experience.

Bionic Eye GPS TrackingI can imagine something like this but use it in relation to people.  Bionic Eye, an iPhone app, already augments reality with business locations.  What would prevent someone creating an application that works together with a GPS tracking application that will give you an idea of where actual people are in your field of vision?  Now that would be fun, useful, and interesting to use.

You could always know where friends and family are at any given moment with the aid of GPS and an augmented reality.  All you would have to do is look in their general direction and you could get a really cool visual of exactly where they are in relation to you just the photo to the right suggests.

The applications for this technology would be robust.  How easy would it be to keep your kids safe in a theme park if you could get a visual idea of how far away they were at any given moment?  You wouldn’t panic if your child gets lost in a crowd or is briefly separated from you.  All you would need to do is use your GPS tracking augmented reality to come up with an idea of where they are at.

The same is true for Alzheimer suffers, teen drivers, spouses, friends, important assets, and the list goes on and on.

So I think that the work by the folks at Zeptotools is really, really cool and could impact not only the world of GPS navigation for cyclists, but also impact how people begin to interact with their position in a way that is currently only being utilized by the military.  Once GPS tracking augmented reality feasible in the day to day of life I think that it will catch on like wildfire and change the face of GPS tracking forever.

Zeptotools: http://zeptotools.com/

2 thoughts on “GPS Navigation For Cyclists With The iPhone”

  1. Great video. I think it’s a little too distracting for the rider to have the HMD, why not just have a GPS device that is text to speech with an earphone?

    1. Hi Ben,

      I think that could work, but the idea is to create an augmented reality with the HMD. Driving directions are just one part of what a fully functional HMD integrated iPhone could do.

      -Joe

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