Although Apple didn’t specifically name the bikes when it recommended that iPhone users do not mount their iPhone to motorcycles and scooters, anyone who has ever tried to attach a smartphone to the handlebars of a bicycle knows that it can be just as risky. But of all the other ways to get GPS directions on a ride, having a large directional arrow projected onto the road ahead of you is, fingers in the nose, the coolest.
While they’re most commonly used for pointing objects and intergalactic space warfare, there are actually some clever ways to use lasers with bikes. Ten years ago, companies incorporated them into bicycle taillights to project virtual lane markers onto the road around a cyclist to create a safe virtual space that drivers and other cyclists will unknowingly stay away from. We even saw laser projectors added to bicycle headlights to project a highly visible warning onto the road about 20 feet in front of the runners so pedestrians and cars see them coming before they see the bike itself.
This solution, however, uses lasers for a security suit and convenient, giving cyclists easy-to-read directional cues while keeping their eyes on the road at all times, instead of requiring them to repeatedly stare at a smartphone screen or smart wearable device on their wrist.
The device shown in this video is called the LaserCube and is basically a compact projector that can create images, text, and even animations using a laser light source. At just shy of $1,000, tit is the cheapest the version of the LaserCube is not exactly cheap (How many thousand-dollar devices do you really want to attach to your bike?) And the square gadget is actually much larger than other bike-mounted GPS navigation systems offered by companies like Garmin. But following a big, bright arrow that counts down the distance to your destination? It almost seems worth the risk of scrambling to take the LaserCube off your bike and stuff it into a backpack when it starts to rain.
Wicked Lasers doesn’t go into specific detail about how it created this tantalizing tech demo, but the big appeal of the LaserCube is that it’s highly customizable and can be connected to other mobile apps. So, in this case, the distance and direction information is taken from a mapping application running on a smartphone with GPS. Is it the most convenient way to get you where you need to go? Probably not, as anyone who’s ever tried navigating with a simple compass will tell you. Having turn-by-turn directions is much more useful. But there’s no reason why this idea couldn’t be refined (and miniaturized) further and integrated directly into the handlebars of a bicycle – it would certainly be worth the effort.