On a Bike, Navigation Software Has to Rely on Sound

By September 05, 2011
Keywords : Smart city, Europe

"Oh Music, Where Art Thou?" offers a way of guiding the cyclist through the streets by means of his ears: playing music in one ear or the other, depending on which direction the rider needs to take.

Extending the GPS market to the bicycle is a somewhat complicated challenge, especially as the cyclist can’t look away from the road without risking an accident. A group of researchers from the Universityof Eindhoven, led by Matthijs Zwinderman, suggests using a sort of audio guide via a smartphone in order to get round the obstacles. The application they have developed, which they have entitled "Oh Music, Where Art Thou?” identifies the right route by using automatic modulation coming from the portable phone sound system.

Adjusting the sound balance in line with the required direction

A cyclist who wants to use this navigation function must first of all start up the application and then plug either a headset or earphones into the telephone. From then on the application will play music, pre-selected by the user, to indicate the way towards the cyclist’s destination. So, if the rider needs to turn right, only the right earphone will play, while if the way leads straight on, both earphones will play at the same volume.  

Far from perfect and potentially dangerous ?

The system has its detractors though, who point out the dangers: if the rider’s entire auditory faculty is saturated with music, s/he will no longer be able to pay attention to other traffic sounds, such as cars braking or horns sounding. But Matthijs Zwinderman doesn’t think these criticisms are justified, arguing: "at least this application ensures the cyclist can keep his hands free and his eyes on the road.”  However, he recognises that the application is not yet working optimally, due to the inevitable movement of the bicycle to which the device is fixed. For the moment, the only solution that the researchers have found is to fix the telephone on the rider’s head to avoid distorting the information received by the gyroscope.

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