In a very awesome and useful display of the innovative genius that we've come to expect from Android developers and modders, Interaction Designer (how awesome does that sound?) Michael Fretz and his team have come up with a bicycle navigation system that can only be described as ingenious. The awkwardly named Punkt.Fizen is a truly creative, original idea that utilizes the power of the Android platform and the versatility of the Arduino.

When I first read about the idea, I wasn't too sure about it but, after reading the intro and description, I got interested:

How does one orient oneself while biking, for example as a tourist? You certainly will read traffic signs, ask people for direction or use a tourist-map. But at least the last example will force you to stop the bike. How could we provide a navigation, where the flow remains undisturbed?

The user will need a very unimposing feedback where to go.

Punkt.Fizn is an Android and Arduino powered bike navigation system. Unlike most navigation systems we didn’t focus on a display. Instead directions will be given only through vibrations in the handlebars. Riding a bike with Punkt.Fizn is like knowing your way already.

If that wasn't intriguing enough, there is a video as well that illustrates the very simple but effective navigation method in action:

While the idea is still fairly new and in the prototype stages, it looks quite promising. I wouldn't be surprised to see these on store shelves (relatively) soon, whether done by Michael or someone else with a similar idea. I know several people who would personally benefit from this idea and, to be honest, this is exactly cool enough for me to dust off my bicycle and start using it as a main means of conveyance.  I'd be really excited if this product went mainstream and I hope this drives (heh) other designers and inventors to try and match this level of creativity and intelligent implementation.

Update: We reached out to Michael for a comment regarding the future of this device, but his reply was a little disheartening - he would love to make it into a real product but is lacking any means to do so. If you know someone who can help Michael out and connect him to manufacturers, be sure to contact him in the source link below.

Source: Michael Fretz [Thanks, Michael! Keep it up!]

Brad Ganley
An Android power user, Brad consumes most of his free time with unhealthy amounts of cell phones and cell phone related things when he isn't playing with his son. Brad is also an avid movie-watcher and tea-drinker.
  • ODC

    Not a bad idea... I would opt for a combination wíth a display (or even lighted arrows), over just the vibrating handles... How many times doesn't it happen that you ride with one hand - you could miss the vibrating directions that way...

    Cool idea otherwise!!

  • Matze

    I love Germany -.- video is not available in your country...uh...

  • Daniel

    Android GPS isn't really good enough on most devices for this to be a practical use case. If Android GPS were good enough, there's still significant battery life issues when running the Google Navigation app; in this video, the phone's battery of this cyclist would have been drained by at least a quarter if not by half in the time it took him to get to his destination.

    • ODC


      2.3 is said to improve battery performance. I hope that also means you can use GPS now without draining the battery within half an hour, because that's absurd...
      Waiting for my Desire to notify me of a system upgrade... but assuming it'll be late Q1 at best... :-S

    • http://www.focuszonedevelopment.com/ Aaron

      You're not thinking big enough then.

      Bikes are a powerhouse of kinetic energy. Add a mechanism to harness the energy of the rotating wheels and/or chains and voila! No more battery life concerns while using your phone in this mode. It's almost quite literally the same approach as the hamster wheel gimmick.

      • Aqeel

        The already have fans and solar panels that attach to the handlebars of your bike to charge your phone or iPod. My dad has one and they're quite nifty. http://www.hymini.com/

  • Deon

    I'm confused. This "idea" is simply to vibrate the handle to tell the user which direction to turn? Instead of voice navigation, it just vibrates the handles so he knows to turn? Seems relatively simple, why wouldn't the cyclist just use bluetooth headphones to hear the turn-by-turn directions?

  • DarkEmeralds

    Elegant idea. I agree that to be practical it needs a Dahon-Biologic style dynamo charger connection.

    Also, when Google navigation can access the bike layer of Google Maps, this will be sweet. Until then, whether visually on screen, by voice nav, or by this cool vibration in the hand grips, it can still direct me onto freeways, just as it would a car.

  • tony

    yeah great idea but i would personally prefer blinker type indication which would be led lights powered by the dynamo that also charges the phone. the blinkers to be located in the handlebar either side coming out of the tube would also give clear indication to motorist's. yes i too ride without holding handlebars at times.
    regards tony