Smartglove Helps Cyclists Be Seen

Cyclists share the road with other vehicles, often leading to problems when drivers fail to see or respect the rider’s space. To try and alleviate these issues, [Matlek] built the Smartglove to help cyclists communicate their intentions to other road users.

The project consists of a glove fitted with an Arduino Nano 33 BLE sense, featuring Bluetooth and motion sensing on board. Combined with TinyML machine learning code, the Arduino is able to sense hand gestures from the rider. These gestures are then interpreted, and relevant messages displayed on an LED screen worn on the rider’s back. Flicking the wrist left and right flashes indicators that the user is about to change direction, while a rearward flick flashes a warning that the user is braking.

It’s a tidy way to integrate vehicle-style lighting into a simple interface for cycling. This has benefits, particularly at night, for allowing other road users to see a cyclist and understand their intentions on the road. Of course, if you really want to be noticed, this bike boombox could also be a big help. Video after the break.

25 thoughts on “Smartglove Helps Cyclists Be Seen

  1. Neat, think some of the lighting options might need some work though for clarity.
    In my experience it won’t solve the problem at all though – car drivers don’t want to see two wheelers no matter how neon they are!

    1. I would worry about unintentional gestures activating the system incorrectly. Swatting at insects comes to mind as something clearly identifiable to a human seeing it, but easily misinterpreted by a machine sensing motion.

        1. Yeah I’d prefer that – its easy to train yourself to indicate with a fully outstretched or fully fisted hand etc which is easy to detect and won’t happen erroneously – that polysense project of deposition on fabrics to make such sensors looks like a good fit.
          Perhaps with the accelerometer for further filtering if wanted.

          Don’t really think it will solve the problem though.. Arseholes in cars aim for cyclists, idiots just spend all their time on the phone/media player not looking for anything small enough crashing into it won’t hurt… If you live maybe you get some good compensation out of them because they really can’t claim you were invisible.. But no amount of visibility has ever helped me on two wheels – only alertness.

        2. A sensor on the break wires make more sense than a gesture. Sharpie a 1/4″ or less; point an optical sensor at it. As the breaks are pulled the sensor does not see the sharpie any more, triggers break lights.

        3. I have been thinking about this recently, and one idea that came to mind for indicating was a magnet and a hall or reed switch in adjacent fingers. If you point, the sensor and magnet separate, and the indicators come on. Thinking about this while cycling, it seems that the index and middle fingers rarely separate in normal cycling (at least with my drop-bars and in-hood shifters)

        4. Why use a complicated glove? A simple 3D printed sleeve to go around the handlebars would work best.
          While this is really nice, it’s over-engineered and frankly, nothing new. I know of people that had a similar challenge for their first year in industrial design 10 years ago and what they made was really close to this.
          I’m not saying that this project does not have merit, I think i’s of more value to the creator than someone else.

    2. Hm. So the vehicle you ride in has influence on the motivation and socio-psychological capabilities of the driver? Interesting theory. Then again, a colleague of mine and an endurance runner and cyclist once explained his attitude towards other vehicles like this: “when I’m on my bike, cars are the enemy, when I am in my car, cyclists are the enemy”… We had two traffic-related fatalities with cyclists in our town in the past years. One was a cyclist who ran over another lady on a bike killing her, another cyclist killed himself by leaving the bike path to take a “shortcut” – into oncoming traffic on the highway. Seeing was not the issue in both incidents.

      1. Well if you are on a two wheeler of any sort and distract yourself its going to really hurt you one of these days, a big metal box full of airbags and seatbelts to make crashes ‘safe’ that worry goes away. In both cases it might hurt others as well but people tend to be very self-centred and find it easy to care about what might hurt them badly.

        Round here there is also a selection of car drivers that really do not give a crap about those cyclists. Usually with arguments like ‘they didn’t pay road tax they don’t deserve to be on MY road.’ or ‘They forced me to slow down for 30 seconds lets squeeze them off the road’

        I wish the roads round here were a civilised as yours sound.. Though that may be a product of width of road as much as cultures. I certainly would never describe the other forms of transport as ‘enemy’ though if I hadn’t kept sufficiently paranoid about the big metal boxes full of blind idiots or arseholes I’d long since have got mangled…

        1. I am glad you are mentioning the psychology of “armor” (the third dimension next to road width and culture): I work in human factors and environmental medicine these days and there is an effect that we used to call “cardboard box armor illusion” (not an official term by any means!): it describes actually two effects, both of which seem relevant in the context of bike safety:

          a) Somebody who is putting on any form of PPE is generally overrating the effectiveness of the equipment closer to his body, regardless of the function of other safety mechanisms further away. Example: a guy with 50ct China-made goggles removes the metal guard on his angle grinder putting himself and others in danger because he thinks the flimsy but tight-fitting eye protection is totally adequate.

          b) Like a kid that made an “armor” from cardboard boxes that is then jumping off a roof, believing it is now nearly invulnerable, there seems to be a distinct pattern of risky behavior among cyclists who wear a lot of protective gear, which includes both, an increased preparedness to put themselves in danger and an increased level of aggression towards others (including other cyclists).

          In the two cases I described, the two cyclists causing the fatal crashes were shrink-wrapped in day-glo / black spandex suits with insectoid style spex…

          There will always be asshole motorists and asshole cyclists but as sb. who uses both, bike and car, I can see a steep increase in aggressive behavior by an increasing number of “cyclists” who ignore all traffic rules and thus put themselves and other people in danger. This phenomenon first appeared in “green” cities and cities with a high number of students (I have no explanation for this pattern). Design could however minimize the effect of “overconfidence-through-armor” by transferring safety functions from the person/gear back to the vehicle…

  2. If the clashing colors give the idiot driving with their knees and talking on their cellphone enough motion sickness from the clashing colors, you’re doing it right. If you can use a pattern that looks like it is moving while you are standing still, even better.

  3. Nice, and appropriate hacker overkill :) And nice that it’s not on the bike itself so it won’t be stolen or vandalized.

    I wonder if it tolerates cobblestones (differentiate gestures from shaking around).

    Would be good to have a signal mode that did not have animations. Stationary blinking markers are easier to see and interpret. In NL people just point to indicate where they are going, so a diffused light on the glove itself would also be cool.

    1. “Stationary blinking markers are easier to see and interpret.”

      You’d think so, but bikes are not very wide… it could be thought, particularly from larger vehicles, that from certain rear quarter views a rear blinker is actually on the other side of the bike, due to where it will appear relative to the “visual mass” of the bike/rider.

  4. I’d be tempted to use an accelerometer on the glove as the sensor. Hand out horizontal with the thump up is left turn. Hand held vertical with the fingers up or horizontal with the thumb down is a right turn, and hand vertical with the fingers down is stop. These just happen to match the standard hand signals that cyclists are supposed to be using anyway, so no need to remember special gestures, and they aren’t easily done by accident. It might help to add in a speaker to make a noise whenever the signals are on, just as a reminder.

  5. One: a brake light switch on the rear and front, either does the thing that all motor cycles and cars do with ease. Two: a 3 position switch waterproof and all to the LT-RT signals mounted in finger distance with the shifters as well. Extra points for motion or magnetic based self canceling after the turn like most cars. It could be as simple as a single button on each side to trigger a turn. Weather wireless to backpack or wired on the bike.

    It is not wise to use hand signals on 2 wheels when slowing down and turning, both hands are in control. Use the rear brake first then additional front brake and let off last with the rear brake. Especially on gravel and sand as well as when it’s wet. One brake alone don’t cut it sometimes.

    1. there’s no real reason to use your rear brake first. You should use both brakes at the same time, and can use more front brake and less back as your weight transfers forward. Skidding your back tire in a hard stop is almost inevitable, since your weight shifts up to even 100% front wheel if you’re braking hard.
      I think is what you were getting at with your sequence, but IRL your weight transfers fast enough that you don’t really need to worry about it as long as you’re not too abrupt, and brace yourself if you’re braking hard (which you usually wouldn’t be before a turn).

      I do have my front brake (the important one) on my right hand, though, which is good if signalling with the left hand. The unfortunate thing is how few drivers seem to understand right turn or stopping signals, so the majority of cyclists who do signal seem to have gone to just pointing the right hand for a right turn, which is less than ideal.

  6. Interestng design but why doesn’t he use standard hand signals, left arm straight out – left turn, left arm out and bent up at the elbow – right turn and left arm out and bent down at the elbow stop, that shouldn’t be too hard. (These signals are used in North America, are they universal?) Or just put a three position for turn signals under your thumb, and ho need to self cancel, if you drive a motorcycle you learn to cancel the signals quick enough.

    1. Where I live, it’s left hand out for left turn, right hand out for right turn, and no signal for stop. That’s for bicycles. Motorcycles have orange signal lights and a red brake light

  7. Right hand straight out also means right turn. It’s legal in the US.

    As a few others have pointed out, it’s not so much that people don’t see us rather than it’s that people aren’t seeing what they expect to see so they ignore it.

    I’d like to also note that black cars tend to get ignored unless they have their lights on.

    We have biases and when things don’t match that bias we tend to ‘ignore’ it.

  8. Nice idea, however using a chevron is counterproductive. Chevrons are used to align traffic, so a chevron pointing to the left means “go to the left of this obstacle”. Which is precisely what you _don’t_ want if you’re turning left.

  9. often leading to problems when drivers fail to see or respect the rider’s space. How about when they are on narrow curvy country roads and ride 3 or 4 abreast and won’t move over.

    1. Sometimes as cyclist groups you have to do that – or folks will push you off the road trying to squeeze between the oncoming and you when there really isn’t the space. Its all very situational but you can’t fail to see a wall of cyclists so its a damn site safer to be one when its appropriate. So have a little patience and wait for the opportunity same as passing a caravan/ tractor etc being held up at worst a handful of mins isn’t worth getting worked up about.

      1. I read years ago in a jogging/running magazine about a runner who got tired of cars ignoring him, cutting him off or not stopping in crosswalks. The runner finally got fed up, and when cars got in the way, he pounded on the hood/bonnet with his hands. Other runners picked up the practice, and soon drivers in that neighborhood became more observant of pedestrians/joggers.

        1. Great idea. Sounds like the guy had some sort of psychological issues. We had an engineering guy in our overseas department who was known for his attempts to “educate” motorists when jogging. Then then tried to “educate” a bus driver who tried to keep up with is schedule on a narrow uphill road. His left leg is now mostly titanium and his left arm an electro-mechanical miracle powered by servo motors… The problem is not space or safety, the problem is (at least in my country) one of a wrongly assumed “moral supremacy” of cycling / walking / jogging over motorized means of transport, resulting in conflicts and casualties, especially when some people believe that they need to “make their own rules” because (insert any zeitgeist BS here). Combine this with an inflated ego and you have a great recipe for unnecessary conflict.

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