Biking Through Google Street View


[Aki] wanted to do some stationary cycling to get in shape. Unfortunately, his stationary cycle is located in his garage which doesn’t supply much inspiration or amusement. His solution was to build a VR rig so that he could ride around inside google street view. He has rigged a simple sensor to his wheel to determine his speed and he’s using a vuzix VR 920 as a display and orientation sensor. While he notes that it isn’t perfect, or even reliable, we think it is pretty cool. He can go sight-seeing, while getting in shape from his own garage. We have to wonder if he gets a headache after a while though.

49 thoughts on “Biking Through Google Street View

  1. Unfortunately Google Streetview’s panoramas are quite spaced out…The VR will look like he’s jumping several meters every few seconds. Maybe if he “bikes” fast enough it’ll look fluent…?

    Nice work!

    I want a head mounted display…

  2. I thought about making something similar a few years ago. My approach was to drive/bike around with a camera and whatever sensor I needed to measure inclines. I was then going to attach a servo to the resistance knob on the bike and make it turn according to where I was in the video. Of course the video would slow down if I did and vice versa as well. The purpose was to use it during winter to make it a bit more interesting.

    A couple of years later and I still haven’t even bought the bike… *sigh*

  3. @Buzzkill,
    in fact, he did. he uses the arduino ‘stitch on’ version or something.

    nonetheless, i think there woudn’t be another option, because he doesn’t need something else then measuring pulses. he might have done it by polling the LPT port of RS232 (you can use RTD RTX pins as input), if the laptop even has these.

  4. Personally I would’ve watched a movie or find a way to browse the net using the same goggles. I think how the map is moving is not ideal, not because of him but how google is implemented it.

  5. Uh, why the F don’t you just cycle outside?

    The project is definitely cool, so congrats on that, but give me a break.

    Cycling outside will get you fitter quicker and you can view the world in realtime, with millions of colours, super-fast refresh, and amazing resolution.

    1. Actually, except for endurance, indoor training can usually get you fitter quicker than outdoor due to the indoor’s lack of interruptions (cars, red lights, etc.) and indoor’s ability to allow for better timed intervals,etc.

    2. I’d like to see feedback to a magnetic resistance trainer so that the resistance varies as to the speed and angle of incline, all based on total weight of the cyclist. With added ability to turn this would be a great addition to what’s out there now. Of course, all we’d have to do is wait for Google to make their streetview less jumpy. Then we’d have to add random sounds and an overlay of things like birds flying above, people walking and the like, 3D, the ability to link to other riders and the like. With those added we’d be able to have the motivation to train more indoors and for a longer time.

  6. Thanks for all the comments! Not sure about the headache thing, I hope not…. not yet anyways. I think with the data, I’m stuck with the existing viewer and I don’t feel like reverse engineering how it works. If the tiles were easily acquired, it might be possible to preload images, stitch them together and display them through opengl for smooth scrolling.

    I’m not nearly so ambitious. :)

    @m : interestions are handled via view point. Face the direction that the POV should go and the system will pick that route.

    @buzzkill : :( I did use an arduino. I did think of using an old optical mouse on the inner rim but I dont have one handy and most HID devices cause events that may have other effects on the computer. The other reason for the Arduino was the high-speed polling was performed there and by using blocking IO on the serial port could be used to minimize the impact on the laptop’s cpu load. Flash is a resource pig on linux, need every cycle I can spare. I also just had it handy.

  7. Thats cool. I’ve wanted to do the same thing for a while now, but using GTA san andreas instead.

    On a side note does the multiple personality writing style bother anyone else?

    Our intelligence is insulted by it, in much the same way that we feel when watching C.S.I. and they find blood stains in broad daylight with a weak uv flashlight.

  8. Really enjoyed this, Aki. Thanks a lot for showing it to us (and your website article on disassembling LCD glasses too).

    I get the idea about moving through the image with OpenGL. Short of that, all we need is StreetView TNG* (The Next Generation) where the imagery is more nearly contiguous, not several yards per frame.

    If I had this, I would use it and become fit. :-)

  9. @concino: tried that but the movie gets too interesting and I stop.

    @Sash: actually, you may find my other project more interesting. This was the easy one since its boundaries are better defined. Refactoring it right now but it’s a perl interface to logging MTK chipsets and a rendering engine to convert the paint the tracks on map tiles with colour rendering to denote speed. Here’s a fairly relatively recent ride to work (I’ve been extending my route since the normal route is so short):

    Red is faster, blue is slower. I’m hoping to render to OpenGL eventually so that not only track colour but elevation (using NASA’s ASTERDEM data) This code I want closer to production so it’s not released yet.

    Also, using the monocular display while riding is surprisingly serviceable.

    @James: do you mean my writing? I’m a programmer so I’m not quite inclined to prose. I’d welcome some advice if you’re willing. I’m only trying to be clear.

    @john: thanks! :)

  10. That is pretty awesome. @Sash: Biking outdoors is also more dangerous since you have to deal with traffic, more stop-and-go since you have to deal with traffic laws and less even because of hills, and leaves you susceptible to weather. For instance, where I live it’s basically unbikable for a couple months each year because of the cold (unless you’re insane, which a few people are, but we have a few days each year that don’t get above 0 degrees F).

  11. @Sash: not to mention you get more variety. You can’t bike around and see the Space Needle, bike across the Golden Gate Bridge, and around Manhattan if you go outside. So this hack has some image quality *benefits* too.

  12. @aki : I was referring to the hack a day authors, not your writing style. I found your info clear and concise.

    Oh, and I should thank you for writing up details on your build. I was going to do this is a much more complicated fashion, you’ve saved me some time and money.

  13. Let me get this right. (1) He has a real bicycle, and then (2) he converts it into stationary exercise bicycle. He felt boring inside so (3) he add computer simulation so it will be more like (4) bicycling on streets?
    Skip steps (2) and (3), now here is you solution (1)–>(4 )

  14. if looking on it only as programming practice then not bad.
    but how he turn, seems like only by his head, just one more pot to add to sense bike steering not like a reason not to add this.
    Or was ready available drivers for VR goggles the reason? well why not to sense both, one for body till turn and other for bike steering by hand

    “Biking outdoors is also more dangerous since you have to deal with traffic, more stop-and-go since you have to deal with traffic laws and less even because of hills, and leaves you susceptible to weather.”

    Wov, that’s mental…, do you wear a helmet all the time, just in case a meteor will hit you, or government/aliens will try to control you with brain waives?

  15. “not to mention you get more variety. You can’t bike around and see the Space Needle, bike across the Golden Gate Bridge, and around Manhattan if you go outside.”

    Evan that why people taking vacations and travel, and not just too see Space Needle but to get wasted and jump as hard as you can on Space Needle glass floor trying to prove to you buddies that you can brake the glass

  16. @jAMES: Oh great! I don’t know what your specific case is but… if you’re in windows, and have the vuzix vr920 and an nvidia card, it seems there’s some really nice drivers there that even allow you to send different images to each display – full stereo vision! (BTW: as the person who put this project together, I thought that a few people at hackaday had seen this and thought it was a neat project. I was tickled, truthfully said :)

    @Evan: You’re totally right – This was totally intended for the fall/winter season.

    *sigh* Just going to say this since it’s easy to trash this sort of thing:

    In the summer I was doing real road riding that totaled 200km a week. I love this form of transportation: it’s at your own schedule, don’t have to fight with transit, no guilt and it’s fast.

    For some time leading into the fall, I was using both my main bike for commutes and my wife’s bike on the trainer for spinning, which helped me keep a higher revolution rate for extended periods on flat stretches. NB. I have problems walking after using the trainer, it’s a proper workout. It also helped, I could tell that there was an improvement in my cruising speed.

    Weather’s not so pleasant now with it raining most of the time and dark. I also have to change clothing after every ride and my shoes are soaked through after the first ride. I keep an extra pair of shoes at the office but have to return to the yucky wet pair the ride home. Round trip is 2 hours that takes up times of prime productivity for me. I’d rather ride at around 9 and burn myself out for the evening.

    If the researchers are correct, I don’t need to go hard for a length of time, short periods of activity that add to a similar amount of time will have a similar beneficial effect for the body.

    So this project helps me take away these excuses for not going out when it’s too annoying to do so. It also has a really cool educational component. I’m still getting into shape but if I travel through the continent with this thing, it gives me not only a goal but an appreciation for how wide and varied this continent is. Think of it: I will have personally turned that wheel over 5000 kms at about 2meters per revolution and spent the time looking at what every state along the way has to offer for view and ecology. All from the road, of course, but the south-western portions of BC are a rainforest with tall cedars and dense underbrush, you can see that from the roads, once I get out to the prairies or desert, it changes.

    I’ll go back to riding on the street when spring comes back and it’s not such a major undertaking.

    @therian: I do wear a helmet every time I ride here, it’s the law. Police hand out tickets to those that don’t: don’t believe me? Search the Velo-Love Vancouver’s mailing list. I also stop at red lights and wear a bright yellow jacket and look like a Christmas tree. All this, yet I’ve been rear ended by someone impatient to drop their kids off at their school, cost me 300$ to repair. Those didn’t stop me, but the hassle of the elements did. This way, I can easily make up my 1-1.5 hours of exercise a day in several segments of any duration at my convenience.

    I think we travel different, I go to meet new people and get a feeling for how the locals live. I really enjoy having a go at understanding how other people’s cultures and value systems manifest.

  17. You people who can look at something like this (therian, sash) and not be able to think of at least SOME situations where this would be useful/preferred are very VERY narrow minded.

    Have a little bit of an imagination, will you?

    Oh… wait… if you did you’d be submitting your own interesting hacks instead of slamming other peoples… nevermind.

  18. Download the SRTM dataset, or the newer Japanese one that came out this summer. Then pull the elevation for your course and get the grade. With the resistance stepper motor you can move toward uber realism.

    Also, dramatically reduce the resistance or add an axillary motor so you accurate downhill.

  19. So when are you gonna sell me this….I think I speak for many when I say that I don’t have time to build this on my own.

    P.S. Kudos to your wife, she must be very patient with you.

  20. I build pedal power generators.
    I am allways looking for ways to demonstrate pedal power. This would be great to have the laptop and other equipment, powered from the bike generator as you ride. It could also very the resitance as you pedaled up hill. You would need some feed back from google to tell you.

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