Can This Device Make GPS Safe for Bikes?

Handlebar-mounted gadget aims to remove phones from the navigation equation

Hammerhead Navigation

It’s a rare bird these days that prints out directions or—practically Stone Age—writes them down. Nearly everyone has an iPhone or Android device with GPS, so that walking or driving to a destination requires little forethought.

Cycling, on the other hand, now there’s a gap in the market.

Smartphone mounts are a dangerous game. If you think texting while driving is a bad idea, try reading directions on your iPhone while cruising through traffic. Even if you manage not to wipe out when the n-teenth pedestrian jaywalks out in front of you, you still have to contend with limited battery life and constantly having to wake up your phone—or simply stopping to look every five minutes.

Enter the Hammerhead, a handlebar-mounted GPS device that aims to simplify bike navigation with simple visual cues. This gadget, currently in development and slated for a 2014 release, connects to your phone via Bluetooth and uses LEDs to signal upcoming turns, distance to the turn and distance traveled.  It also has a compass, headlight and turn signals.

Unlike a traditional GPS, the Hammerhead app crowdsources routes, so, in the words of company founder Piet Morgan, it provides a “living map.”

Of course, such an ambitious idea requires an active community of users to build that map, something Hammerhead’s developers hope to cultivate with a social component to the app. It will allow you to race in real time, track friends and share your rides. It also integrates with Strava, MapMyRide and similar apps.

Still, one wonders why the makers didn’t at least include the option of integrating with Google Maps. Some of us just want to know which bike lanes cut across town, you know.

The device also has other features that seem to belie its goal of simplicity. In addition to giving directions, it has indicators for speed, upcoming U-turns, distance to top of climb, distance to end of segment, etc. Whether or not the visual language of the Hammerhead is intuitive enough for a rider to decipher on the fly is a question that won’t be answered until people get a chance to use it.

Still, it’s a powerful concept, and one that the Garmins and Apples of the world are likely to watch.

True to the spirit of the device, Hammerhead’s makers are crowdfunding its last stage of development. Click here for more info, and check out the video below.


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