The 'Prius of bicycles' switches gears by reading your mind
The Prius X Parlee bicycle combines light-weight design with brain-control gear shifting.
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For the PXP concept bike, Parlee says he designed a fork-shaped frame around the brake system and tried to clean up the lines of the bike to make it more streamlined.Skip to next paragraph
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"We looked for off-the-shelf technology first," says Mr. Miller, who used an iPhone, a publicly available smart phone app, and a few popular neuroheadsets made by Neurosky and Emotiv. "We combined it in a way that's never been done before."
For this project, a lightweight laptop was slipped inside the back of the cyclist's jersey. The computer "talked" to the neuroheadset, the smart phone app, and the wiring inside the bike.
Miller says it was a fast and easy solution to bridge all of the technological components of the bike together. But, if development continued, they would have created an embedded system that sits in the bike frame.
Don't expect a smooth, mind-controlled ride right away, he says. In order to make the bike function properly, a cyclist must train the software to read the brain waves correctly.
"At first, I was trying to scrunch my face and think of things – and that didn't work," Miller says. The sensors pick up crude signals, not specific thoughts, which is why practice is so important.
Miller says training neurosoftware is usually easier for young kids, who, compared with adults, usually don't focus and stress as much about each movement. "As people become more used to [the technology], the training will become easier," he says.
If the brain waves are ever misread, the cyclist can switch a setting on the smart phone app to manually control the bike.
The PXP team recently completed the project and shipped the prototype bike to the International Forum EuroBike competition in Germany. Past winners included an urban bike made of completely biodegradable flax fibers and a high-performance racing shoe that weighs just 0.4 pounds.
Toyota does not plan to manufacture bikes, and the Prius X Parlee design will not be sold on the market, Mr. Morisako says. However, Miller expects similar technology to thrive – in bicycles, gadgets, and prosthetics.
"This was purely a prototype concept," Miller says. But, "in general, neurocontrol things will become more commonplace in the tech world."
Parlee says this project has opened his eyes and made him see aerodynamic road bikes in a different light.
"It was a great opportunity to explore an [aerodynamic] road bike," Parlee says. "I'm going to continue playing with designs and variations of what we already came up with."
Parlee plans to release a new road bike in 2012 or 2013 inspired by the PXP design.
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