Japanese team creates the latest virtual cycling Streetview hack, with some clever additions



See our report on this in Japanese

Stationary exercise bikes can be pretty boring if you have nothing interesting ahead of you. But here’s a fun hack from Tokyo-based KeyValue Inc that lets you take a virtual bicycle ride though various cities around the world. The system makes use if Google Streetview imagery, displayed on a screen in front of a stationary bike – hardly the real thing, but it’s certainly a fun way to make your exercise more interesting.

Using a combination of their own homemade hardware, plus a bike, an iPad, and an external display, the group has created a way to cycle through real-world locations on Google Streetview. In addition to these basic visuals, they have added some other fun elements as well, including an electric fan that blows wind in your hair when you’re going fast. There’s also a fun steering mechanism whereby the rider wears a helmet equipped with an accelerometer, and merely tilts to either side when they wish to make a turn.

I don’t quite understand all the technical details, but it seems that a magnetic sensor on the bike detects the rider’s pedaling motion, and conveys an estimated speed to the server, which then updates the Streetview display accordingly.

To see the system in action, check out the video overview and demonstration below.

Of course, there have been other examples of this sort of hack in the past. The earliest one that I know of is Aki Mimoto who did something similar way back in 2009. He implemented a head-mounted Vusix display though, which was pretty neat.

On a related note, I have my own iMac/bicycle mashup (aka ‘the desk-cycle’) at home. Perhaps I’ll use hyperlapse to make a virtual road, and open a window to get some wind in my hair!