John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
They buzz you left or right toward a destination (which may or may not turn out to be a brick wall).
"Eyes-free navigation" doesn't sound like a great idea for cyclists who value the integrity of their faces. Yet that's the far-fetched feature offered with smrtGRiPS, haptic feedback-equipped bike accessories that allow riders to feel their way around a city.
The paired gadgets, made by Montreal's Boréal Bikes, look like little metal flashlights that slip inside a bike's handlebars. Once synced with a mapping app, they direct riders toward a destination by vibrating left or right. The smrtGRiPS are alleged to have a three-month battery life, so cyclists can jet around for long stretches without having to constantly take them apart like dead Wii controllers.
Here's how Boréal describes the $64 doohickeys on Indiegogo:
smrtGRiPS Connect strives to transform your bike into that dependable attentive friend that helps you know what's coming through a subtle nudge or—when you really need to pay attention—a forceful shake.
Thoughtfully minimalist, integrated and balanced, this is technology that will doesn't stick out. It's all about improving that symbiotic relationship between you and your bike, so you can have a ride that's smart and connected, but frees you to enjoy that immersive experience called The Ride. Look at it this way—you can squint at a screen, or you can ride—take in the view, be with your friends, and fully enjoy the trail.
The grips include a smattering of other perks, like a locating beacon for fuzzy-minded parkers and an alert system if one of your group falls prey to a wolf (well, lags behind for any reason, I suppose). And if a thief snags the bike, the owner will get notifications from other smrtGRiPS users when the miscreant pedals by them. All in all, it sounds like nifty bike gear for the 21st century ... at least until hackers find a way to manipulate the vibrations and steer you into the municipal reservoir.