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Lumigrids – the LED projector that keeps cyclists out of potholes

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May 28, 2013

Lumigrids aims to make cycling at night that little bit less perilous

Lumigrids aims to make cycling at night that little bit less perilous

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Lumigrids is a simple, clever and above all useful concept that aims to improve the safety of cycling at night. The device is an LED projector that fits on the handlebars of your bicycle, projecting a square grid onto the ground before you. By looking at the changes and abnormalities in the grid, the cyclist is able to easily pick out potholes and other obstacles, helping them to avoid potential crashes and falls.

The team behind Lumigrids claim that the design is an improvement over traditional bicycle lamps, which casts shadows around both concave and convex obstacles, making it difficult for the rider to judge the surface effectively. Lumigrids' grid projection system makes it a lot easier to identify the nature of the abnormalities, with the squares of the grid bending and changing in an easy way for the rider to process.

The projector has three different settings, offering a variety of grid sizes that are designed for use in different situations. The device's normal mode will display a 140 x 180-mm (5.5 x 7.1-inch) grid, the high speed mode ups the area to 140 x 260 mm (5.5 x 10.2 inches) and the “team” mode widens the grid to 300 x 200 mm (11.8 x 7.9 inches).

The size of the grid can be adjusted by the rider, on the move

Like normal bicycle lights, the light itself will also alert pedestrians and vehicles to the rider's presence, further improving safety. The device is powered by either the movement of the bike's wheels or by an internal battery. There's only one button on the device, which should make it possible to turn the projector on and off and run through the modes while on the move.

The Lumigrids device isn't the first time we've seen projectors used to improve cyclists' safety. Xfire's Bike Lane Safety Light projects a virtual bike lane on the road around the bike, while the BLAZE light projects a symbol of a cyclist onto the road in front of the rider. Combining one of these with Lumigrids might just provide the ultimate cycling safety kit – that's if you're OK with looking like something out of Tron.

Lumigrids was created by a team of researchers from the Sichuan University in China, and has been awarded the Red Dot Design Award for 2012. There's no word yet on whether or not the device will be produced commercially.

Source: Red Dot Awards

About the Author
Chris Wood Chris specializes in mobile technology for Gizmag, but also likes to dabble in the latest gaming gadgets. He has a degree in Politics and Ancient History from the University of Exeter, and lives in Gloucestershire, UK. In his spare time you might find him playing music, following a variety of sports or binge watching Game of Thrones.   All articles by Chris Wood
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19 Comments

The human eyes are excellent at detecting edges by contrast. When you illuminate the road with contrasty grid lines, it will most likely confuse the rider when the feature size of the road imperfection is less than the size of each grid (see aliasing in signal processing) or when the feature is nearly perpendicular to the line of travel. The low resolution of the grid spacing essentially causes a mental pixelation of the road which is opposite of what you want. The checkered after image could also hinder vision further. Does it really matter if a rider can tell if a surface feature is a ditch or a curb? Wouldn't common sense tell you to treat all such obstacles the same? Seems to me there is no added functional benefit that cannot be sufficiently solved with a reasonably bright (cheap and ubiquitous) lamp. ...or am I missing the point which this concept serves...to advertize one's degree of hipness?

sk8dad
28th May, 2013 @ 01:04 pm PDT

I think its a great solution. I have an eye disease that limits vision to one eye. The result is lack of depth perception. This makes it even harder to visualize surfaces at night as shadows are no longer a viable aide in helping discern topology changes. The grid does this naturally. It would also probably help on mini golf courses too!

Dekarate
28th May, 2013 @ 03:47 pm PDT

On my understanding, if the device is projecting a square grid and we get what is presented in the pictures, this device must be placed at the vertical of the grid. Am I wrong?....

Of course if it is not a basic projector but a device composed of a scanning device and a projector which adapt the shape of the light to the surface then, ok, that could work. But the device looks really small for this task.

If you are planing to buy this device, then buy a fishing rod to make it working properly!

Ju_LC
28th May, 2013 @ 04:33 pm PDT

My concerns include projecting it far enough down the road to be useful at real cycling speeds, and the pattern becoming overly distracting, preventing detection of the real road surface beneath. The grid pattern distortion might render some modest surface roughness the same as a patch of gravel, however with the require reaction by the cyclist not the same for each case. In short, it probably should only be developed in order to give some amount of additional information regarding the the road surface, and cannot substitute for a good headlight and ye olde human eye. If it complements human vision, it's good. If it dominates it, then it will do more harm than good....in my opinion.

Tom Hovan
28th May, 2013 @ 07:38 pm PDT

Also glossing over the fact that humans don't have spiderman like reflexes.

If the grid is 2-3 m in front of you and you are travelling more then 10km/hr, then there is buckley's chance of avoiding the gaping maw in the road.

Place a range finder with a small speaker on your helmet that beeps if there is a rapid change in depression. Use an accelerometer to detect head movement preventing unnecessary beeping.

Nairda
28th May, 2013 @ 07:50 pm PDT

A video of it working would be nice.

re; Ju_LC

This works because you are looking at the grid at a different angle than it is being projected at.

re; sk8dad

This uses less power than a headlight that that provides the same level of clarity and is therefor lighter.

I will ride right over a "bottomless" 2 inch wide gap but will try to avoid running over a 2x2 inch bump.

Slowburn
28th May, 2013 @ 08:38 pm PDT

I prefer my 2000 lumen light the TM11, light is sweet from nitecore, you can see the bad stuff before you run into it

Bill Bennett
28th May, 2013 @ 10:31 pm PDT

Re: Slowburn

I am not saying that it cannot work. I am saying that this device cannot give the result presented on the pictures. We are used to see people lying to sell product but I am used to say something when I see something wrong.

Two things:

- These pictures are fake, Slowburn, you would easily agree. Or explain me why in the 3rd picture, the fourth horizontal line starting from the bottom is broken despite that the difference between the projection angle and the view angle is zero.

- Why don’t they present the real view then? A computer and a projector is enough to simulate a more realistic case. Does it work well with the reall configuration? Is the angle sufficient to be effective? Even at the bottom of the grid? Is the real grid projection easy to be processed by a human brain as it is in the case when the beam comes from the ceiling (in these pictures)?

There was a reason for releasing these fake pictures…? And the answer is probably in one of these previous questions therefore I would not be too enthusiastic about this product!

But maybe I am wrong…

Ju_LC
28th May, 2013 @ 10:47 pm PDT

Having cycled day and night for many years - this product is a death trap. As a cyclist you need to be fully aware of what's around you at all times. Having to focus your attention to a small grid a few metres ahead of you bike - means that you miss the 30 tonne truck heading straight for you. A good bright bicycle light, a bright head worn light and suitable bright reflective clothing should ensure you have better visibility and other are aware of your presence on the road. "Monkey lights" on the wheel spokes also improved street presence.

Richard Corso
29th May, 2013 @ 03:15 am PDT

you would also need a headlight

this thing would not do anything to warn you about gravel, sand, water, oil, ice

not to mention brick walls or a pedestrian in black

holes and bumps - MAYBE

but there are a lot of other nighttime hazards

wle

Larry English
29th May, 2013 @ 11:36 am PDT

I think the grid sizes of three different modes are not big enough to help rider identify the obstacles ahead. At the biggest size, 300 x 200 mm, the grid is smaller than the size of a ceramic tile (usually 400 x 400 mm). So the covered area is too small to display the changes on surface. In the pictures above, I think the grid size is much bigger, around 1 meter or more when compare to the length of the handle-bar. Maybe something inappropriate here :D

bk9sw
29th May, 2013 @ 12:50 pm PDT

no body has that fast reflexes, plus you swerve to miss a pot hole and are hit by a truck

Steve Leibovitz
29th May, 2013 @ 03:30 pm PDT

@sk8dad Your assessment is only true of a stationary bicycle. Because it's moving it's "scanning" the road and an imperfection of ANY size will show up as the grid goes over it.

warren52nz
29th May, 2013 @ 04:04 pm PDT

I've used a laser pointer to walk along sidewalks lumped up by tree roots and covered in snow, in the dark, without a flashlight.

Swing the laser back and forth quickly, not just in a straight line but randomly. POV shows a rough map of the terrain ahead.

A handheld laser device that could project a grid, with a solid state gyro keep the projection level, would make such dark navigation easier. Use an IR laser with night vision goggles and one could walk around at night without showing any light.

Such a system would make active vehicle suspension systems much easier to build because they wouldn't have to read suspension deflection and control the actuators by "feeling" what the tires are rolling over. The projected grid would provide the suspension computer several milliseconds of read ahead on the road condition.

Bose has spent millions on developing an active vehicle suspension system, and going about it sooo wrong. (That's why Bose speakers and that Wave radio cost so bloody much! Buy Bose and support research that's not led to anything commercially viable.) If they'd had this projected grid idea early on instead of trying to sense the road instantaneously through the tires...

Gregg Eshelman
30th May, 2013 @ 12:06 am PDT

Weirdly I thought of exactly this kind of projection a few months ago, but not for cycling, for skiing.

When skiing (or boarding, or even walking) in very bad visibility (cloud, blizzard) in snowy areas, you often experience white-out, where you can't tell where the air stops and the ground begins, and you lose all sense of depth. You can often see things far away (rocks, trees), but changes in the shape of the ground right in front of you can be completely invisible - I've often found myself hitting things that I can't see even *after* hitting them, whose shape you can only discern by touching!

Needless to say, this can be an extremely dangerous situation.

A bright light is absolutely no use. Conditions are incredibly bright already - when pointing a 1000-lumen torch 1m in front of you, you can't even tell it's on. To provide shape information, the projector needs to be offset from your view point as much as possible (i.e. not on a head torch) or it won't create any kind of useful shapes or shadows. In snow this is especially important because the ground is often very smoothly textured - not a 'pothole' scenario - so you need to increase contrast as much as possible.

A bright, contrasting grid (I was thinking of a hand-mounted red laser) would allow you to make out the shape of the terrain right in front of you. I'd not followed this up since it's apparently impossible to create a useful grid with diffraction gratings (they can make lines and crosses but not grids) and you need to use a scanning system (as this does) which would add weight and complexity. It would also need to be fairly powerful to be visible in these conditions.

Synchro
30th May, 2013 @ 02:46 am PDT

The grid will not be stationary since anything but a smooth surface will transmit forces up to the mounting point (handlebars I assume). Normal headlights vibrate, but the main lit area would be relatively constant, with some shaking on the fringe. That same vibration would make the grid move around. That may be a good thing, since it would in effect be like the rapidly swinging laser that Greg Eshelman suggests. Still, I think Richard Corso's advice makes the most sense.

Bruce H. Anderson
3rd June, 2013 @ 09:39 am PDT

This is a waste of space as concentrating on the projected image simply detracts from the all round awareness required to ride safely. A good quality headlight & tail light, reflective clothing and a clip on Knog Frog type light mounted on the frame to illuminate the rider would be a far more useful combination in the real world.

Some decently maintained roads woud be good too but unfortunately I ride a bike in Manchester, England not cloud cuckoo land !

tony-k
5th June, 2013 @ 11:15 am PDT

This doesn't really solve anything. It doesn't replace the need for a good headlamp, which would wash out the projected grid.

Chris Bonner
21st August, 2013 @ 10:59 am PDT

Well, something has to be done, either this or a very strong headlight, to avod this, too: http://www.wimp.com/blindspot/

Edgar Castelo
22nd November, 2013 @ 01:10 pm PST
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