Although Apple didn’t call out bikes specifically when it recommended iPhone users not mount their iPhones to motorcycles and scooters, anyone who’s ever tried to attach a smartphone to a bicycle’s handlebars knows it can be just as risky. But of all the other ways there are to get GPS directions while out for a ride, having a big directional arrow projected on the road ahead of you is, hands down, the coolest.
Although most commonly used for pointing at things and intergalactic space warfare, there are actually some clever ways lasers can be used with bicycles. A decade ago companies were integrating them into bike taillights to project virtual lane markers on the road around a cyclist to create a virtual safe space that drivers and other cyclists will subconsciously stay clear of. We’ve even seen laser projectors added to bike headlights to project a highly visible warning on the road about 20 feet in front of riders so that pedestrians and cars will see them coming before they see the actual bicycle.
This solution, however, uses lasers for a combination of safety and convenience, providing cyclists with easy-to-read directional cues while they keep their eyes on the road ahead at all times, instead of requiring them to repeatedly glance down at a smartphone screen or a smart wearable on their wrist.
The device demonstrated in this video is called the LaserCube and is essentially a compact projector that can create images, text, and even animations, using a laser light source. At just shy of $1,000, the least expensive version of the LaserCube isn’t exactly cheap (how many thousand dollar devices do you really want to strap to your bike?) and the boxy gadget is actually much larger than other bike-mounted GPS satnavs offered by companies like Garmin. But following a big glowing arrow that counts down the distance to your destination? That almost seems worth the risk of scrambling to unmount the LaserCube from your bike and stuffing it into a backpack when it starts to rain.
Wicked Lasers doesn’t go into specific details 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 instance, the distance and directional information is being pulled from a mapping app running on a smartphone with GPS. Is it the most practical way to get to where you need to go? Probably not, as anyone who’s ever tried to navigate with just a compass will tell you. Having turn-by-turn street directions is far more useful. But there’s no reason this idea can’t be refined (and miniaturized) further and built right into a bike’s handlebars—it would definitely be worth the upgrade.