Thursday, January 17, 2008

A Cervellum Digital Bike Computer

When you just thought you were missing hindsight riding your bike...

An interesting concept and probably nearing a possible prototype stage : How about a heart rate monitor, a fitness data recorder, a GPS and a rear view monitor, all on a 3.5 inch screen all for about 300 dollars?

From the very first Avocet C10 decades ago, to the Quarq, and now this. It seems folks in the bicycle industry really want to borrow some control and safety aspects from the auto industry (think Lexus) and throw that into a bicycle. Handsome idea, but is it worth it? Think about it :

1. A simple sideways glance is free.
2. A helmet or sunglass mirror is approx. 10 or 12 dollars excluding shipping.
3. 300 dollars for a rear view monitoring system.

While I appreciate technology in all forms, 300 moolah is still a lot for a helmet mirror replacement. And this doesn't take into account the price of all the number of addons you're looking at. Considering that some of the cheapest camcorders today are sub 200, I'd imagine that this technology will see a lowering in price at some point. I'm also assuming that this bike computer will have no recording element or functionality. At some point, this toy is going to be the next best thing to adorn your 10K bike with.

Price aside, what I do like are two things (from the info we have) :

1. The idea for a camera on the seatpost. How big it is , we do not know yet, but anything in the slipstream of the bicycle is a good thought. Personally, I don't want anything electronic sitting ugly on my bar end plug.

2. I like the company's modular approach to developing applications for the computer. It seems they'll let third parties develop hrm and gps functions for the computer. It'll be great to have a power wattage display as well. This will probably increase the usability of this hardware, since it'll function more or less like a plug and play device. This is a good step in integration as no one really wants 10,000 computers on his handlebar serving a specific function. Personally, I want the front end of my bike looking clean. No messy dashboards here..

What I'm concerned about are :

1. With a camera on the seatpost as said, you'd need some adjusting if you were changing seat post heights constantly. Some other considerations are, will the camera be exposed to the elements, and how it'll perform during a jump or a sprint when you're literally shoving your bike sideways. (But who really cares about rear view in a sprint anyway right?)

2. How about the video quality? Real images, as displayed on helmet mirrors, are so much superior to a 2 or 3 megapixel video camera. Any poor viewing quality/noise/jitteriness on the digital monitor is just going to distract and possibly put the cyclist at some amount of risk. What type of sensor the camera uses, CCD or CMOS, will possibly dictate the price and/or quality of image as well. This is the area where the camera should clearly justify its advantage over conventional mirrors.

3. Battery life : It seems to be about 4 hours, which isn't so bad but it may prick you if you're a long distancer

4. Wired, or wireless? Surely in this day and age, they should opt for the former. For instance, there are wireless security cameras in the market running different frequencies. Unfortunately, there are limited frequencies available today.

5. Reception : With a wireless system, will there be reception problems between the transmitter and receiver when the camera is on the behind the seatpost. Metal has been known to block signals.

6. With a seat post mounted camera, there goes another potential spot to mount your third water bottle.

7. Crash testing? I'll hate to watch my camera ripped and lying on the asphalt. (Aaargh, ok I'll stop complaining and learn some bike handling..)

Its a novel idea but lets wait for some more news on this item. James at Bicycle Design has also written a post on this so check it out.

Just an afterthought : With all these novel, yet expensive solutions that develop the bicycle's cross functionality more and more, its becoming increasingly scary a thought to leave your bicycle outside.


Donald said...

Not a bad idea but yes... a camera mounted on the seatpost would catch all the spray from your rear tire on a wet or rainy day. Great idea for safety and checking on your fellow riders but don't look down too long!

Ron said...

Will , thats a pretty obvious situation with some folks. Personally I can't justify getting one of those and not even using it!

Ryan, they'll have a PM down the line.

Don, there's an option of mounting the camera and transmitter on your handlebar ends but that doesn't avoid a possibility of dirt, rain and obstacles like your own thighs and knees.

Jahowie, anytime!