Battle of the smart bike cams - BikeBiz

Battle of the smart bike cams

No digital rear-view bike mirrors for ages and then two come along at once. Hindsight 35 & Owl 360 go head to head at Interbike.
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Cerevellum's Hindsight 35 is the best product at Interbike, said Fredcast's David Bernstein. Hindsight is a handlebar-mounted monitor which doubles as a crash recorder and, via a VGA camera, a digital rear view mirror. It has ANT+ capability and can display power and HRM data as well as real-time rear views. It has been in development since 2006, was soft-launched at Eurobike on the Blue bicycles booth and costs $299.

Not at Eurobike but very much at Interbike is The Owl, a seat-post mounted CMOS video camera that also has a handlebar monitor. It's not as feature-packed as the Hindsight 35 (the Owl doesn't have the crash recording ability, for instance) but, at $179, it's less expensive.

Neither unit is available for sale yet. The Owl can be pre-ordered online, and the Hindsight 35 will be available in December.
BikeBiz.com has carried previous stories on Cerevellum's Evan Solida, creator of the Hindsight. As well as owning 40 percent of Cerevellum (the rest is owned by angel investors in his home town of Greenville, South Carolina), he's an industrial designer, including designing bicycles. He was a 2004 Kansas state champion cyclist, but was hit from behind by a motorist, hence his development of the Hindsight.

As well as being a rear-view mirror and crash recorder the Hindsight can be used in races, said Solida. The product is UCI-compliant, having been put through the UCI's year long innovation's approvals process.

However, the main use for the Hindsight will be as a high-end camera for commuter cyclists.

The Hindsight's LCD screen affixes to the handlebars and there's a HDMI cable to a camera/LED light fitting to the rear stays or seatpost. Crash recording is done by continuously recording loops of video behind the bicycle. With an integrated accelerometer, the Hindsight can detect large impacts and will cease recording 10-seconds after any major shock, leaving the cyclist with video evidence of whatever occurred leading up to the incident. The video is overwritten every ten minutes.

A patent for the concept was applied for in 2007. The product has gone through a number of iterations since goin viral on a number of cycling websites.

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Solida (seen on the screen above) said the Hindsight was future-proof because he has created an app programme for the unit. This keeps the price down, he said, enabling users to add modules, such as power and HRM apps. These apps will be available via Cerevellum's website.

The Hindsight doesn't have a GPS chip so the unit can't be used as a tracking or navigation device, but Solida said a future version could ship with this functionality. 

"I left space for a GPS chip on the PCB [printed circuit board). Adding the chip would add about $30 to the price, taking it over the target price of $299. However, it's not just price that's an issue. There would also have to be software produced to integrate GPS functions and this would take time and more cost."

David Bernstein, producer of the Fredcast roadie podcast (and host of Interbike TV), said the Cerevellum was his 'product of the show' and he had no problems with the lack of GPS.

"This isn't for the Garmin crowd or the GoPro bike cam crowd. It fits into a different niche."

When Bernstein was asked whether the Hindsight would be better as a camera only, feeding to a smartphone on the handlebars, he said:

"That's a good idea but the iPhone's operating system cuts out certain running apps at times and getting real-time viewing through the iPhone's camera would be a step too far. I carry my iPhone in a rear jersey pocket, I don't want it on the handlebars. I'd be happier having the Hindsight on my bars."

The Hindsight has another benefit over smartphones: the screen is transflective rather than transmissive. This allows the screen to be readable even in bright conditions as it uses sunlight as a source of illumination. Smartphones have transmissive screens that require a lot of power and are difficult to read in sunlight.

Solida said: "The battery is optimized to work on this system, allowing it to work for a full seven hours with everything running full speed. Conditions and settings will enable it to last even longer."

The Hindsight will appeal to power-measuring geeks: it offers real-time graphing of power data. Solida has a patent pending on this feature.

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And below is a pic of the Owl 360's screen:

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