Tuesday 10 June 2014

Safer Bicycle Inspired by Cat's Whiskers

Students in Long Beach, USA wanted to make cycling safer in the city.  They wanted it to be the safest place for a cyclist.  One element of safety for a cyclist is an adequate amount of space around the cycle.  They wanted to design a bike or an accessory for a bike which addresses the problem of adequate space for a cyclist and they found the answer in nature, in what they refer to as bio-attributes. In observing animals they found the answer in whiskers.

These need not be the whiskers that belong to a domestic cat but the sake of this post I will refer to a cat's whiskers and in any case a cat's whiskers are the best!  They are a remarkable item of anatomy.  They are incredibly sensitive because of a heavy conglomeration of nerves at the base of each whisker which allows the cat to detect small changes in air currents surrounding the whiskers which in turn allows the cat to detect what objects are there in dark conditions because the air currents move around objects and are disturbed by objects.  The whiskers allow a cat to read the terrain without actually seeing it.

A cat's whiskers are like the fingers of a hand in that they can feel the cat's prey and help guide the cat when killing prey in dusky conditions at dawn and dusk.  It is said that the cat's whiskers allows the cat to feel the position on the nape of a small mammal's neck where the cat is to insert his canine teeth to sever the spinal cord.

Inspired by the sensitivity and functionality of whiskers the student engineers came up with whiskers for bikes.The product is called vibriSee and essentially it allows the cyclist to signal to other road users how much space the cyclist requires.  They look like somewhat like cat's whiskers as you can see in the photographs on this page.

See the video from which these screenshots were taken.

Article by Michael Broad

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