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post #1 of 78 Old 05-13-2011, 09:34 PM Thread Starter
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Feeler for an idea

Hello All!

It's been a while since I've been here; new job and new baby have a way of keeping me busy. Luckily my new job lets me be at home more without a cut in pay... the new baby makes sure that money and time are spent at HIS discretion!

To the idea: In one of the rare moments (~an hour) I had to myself I thought to myself that I had some electronic bits leftover from school, I wonder how hard it would be to get some added safety on my helmet? Well, after I actually found my electronic gear, ordered a micro controller and got it wired up, it wasn't as painful as I thought.

Right now I have a breadboarded prototype. I still need to pick up a couple parts that i don't have on hand and tweak the code, but it's probably 80% done. After I get it ironed out, I'll stick it to my helmet, wire the rest of it up on the bike and see how it works in traffic/on the road.

What is *it*? It's an array of 6 LEDs mounted on the back of a helmet that provide brake lights, Left signaling and Right signaling. There is a wireless connection between the micro controller on the helmet and the unit in the tail. Brakes/turn indicators will be tapped in the tail and the voltage stepped down to keep from frying the electronics, also in the tail.

I looked around on the internet and found exactly one device like this. It had what appears to be 2 revisions, neither of which is being sold anymore. It was a wireless brake light, that's it.

Has anyone else seen something like this? If there is a ready-built version of this, I'm going to stop wasting my time and just buy it. If there isn't something like this, well I've come this far, why not finish the ride? With the micro controller I have (the family of them to be more precise including the one I happen to be using) is capable of A LOT more than listening for, and doing something with, a few signals from the tail. More on that later, since I'm not done with this first part.

I guess I'm curious about a couple of things: Does anyone know if this is already done and available? If not, is anyone interested in having something like this? As it stands right now, the parts I chose/had on hand are a bit pricey. I've been trying to find cheaper parts/tweak the design to make it less expensive to build but I'm not having too much luck. If I really wanted to reduce the price, I would have to rely on software to make sure my brake light came on and (coupled with the delay/latency of doing it in software) I'm not that thrilled about having to trust the radios to not reject packets etc.

That being said, I have managed to scale back the hardware costs somewhat, I still have to design/fab printed circuit boards and figure out mounting on the helmet plus an enclosure to keep it from looking like I have technical garbage strapped to my bucket. So I'm not willing to say what the hardware costs are, but I think it is reasonable. Add in the fact that it is expandable and upgradeable and it becomes an even better deal.

So.... like I asked above: anyone already make this, and if not is anyone interested in this?

If the answers are yes then no, I'll strap my prototype onto my helmet and shut up and ride.

Thanks

Allen

PS one of my buddies (who happens to be a member here) implied when I asked him about it, that having the lights on my helmet would be decidedly squiddish. Not being a squid, I definitely don't want to become one. Comments/opinions on this point of view?

A

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post #2 of 78 Old 05-13-2011, 09:51 PM
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Not sure if there's anything else out right now and I think it's a great idea, I think the safety plus and inventiveness will help anyone overlook the squid thing, and as long as you're not really a squid and this thing gets one cage to actually see you, everything else doesn't matter, buuut as always...

We need pics!

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post #3 of 78 Old 05-13-2011, 09:54 PM
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post #4 of 78 Old 05-13-2011, 10:48 PM
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Gmax makes something like that:

YouTube - Gmax 68s Helmet Crusader

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post #5 of 78 Old 05-14-2011, 05:01 AM
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You should make a device that makes an audible noise in your helmet when your turn signals are on.

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post #6 of 78 Old 05-14-2011, 05:10 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by marylandmike View Post
That was the only thing I found that was similar to my little project. Apparently, they are hard to find unless you go to eBay. The prices range quite a bit, but seem to be pretty cheap in general. Unfortunately all it is is a brake light. Still that's better than nothing.

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post #7 of 78 Old 05-14-2011, 05:18 AM Thread Starter
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Gmax makes something like that:

YouTube - Gmax 68s Helmet Crusader
I actually followed a rider into his work parking lot when I saw he had this on. I thought it was a brake light since we were stopped at a light near the business park we both work in. I asked about it and he demonstrated the functions. When I asked about whether they lit up when he braked he looked crestfallen that they did not. (Sorry, guy that showed me his helmet.) The strobing definitely caught my attention, so a modulated brake signal would probably be better than one that just comes on. Will have to do that.

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post #8 of 78 Old 05-14-2011, 05:19 AM Thread Starter
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You should make a device that makes an audible noise in your helmet when your turn signals are on.
Excellent idea.

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post #9 of 78 Old 05-14-2011, 09:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alinosa View Post
Excellent idea.
That's my biggest screwup when riding is forgetting to cancel my turn signals. I remember most of the time, but every once in a while

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post #10 of 78 Old 05-14-2011, 12:12 PM Thread Starter
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Not sure if there's anything else out right now and I think it's a great idea, I think the safety plus and inventiveness will help anyone overlook the squid thing, and as long as you're not really a squid and this thing gets one cage to actually see you, everything else doesn't matter, buuut as always...

We need pics!
Sorry! Blew right past this when responding to posts. I'll get some pics up when it is less scary looking. Right now it's a bunch of wires and some breadboard. Seeing only this version of it, I wouldn't trust it had I not been the one that put it together. I agree that making it safer to ride is always a plus.

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post #11 of 78 Old 05-14-2011, 01:02 PM
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True that! Don't want an Octopus helmet, wire tentacles connecting to the bike and what not >.< That would be a step in the opposite direction of safe

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post #12 of 78 Old 05-26-2011, 09:13 PM Thread Starter
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Sorry for dropping out like that, been busy chasing a short little 2-ft ball of energy and trying to figure how to make this idea smaller. cheaper doesn't seem to be anywhere close to easy, and frankly the easiness matters. Mostly because it shrinks the helmet mounted part. (and limits the expensive parts mixing it up with rain should that come to pass.) Still working on getting a pretty prototype built that is picture worthy. Having a toddler keeps me busy though so don't hold your breath (can't have anyone passed out that was actually interested in seeing this put together).

aln

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post #13 of 78 Old 05-26-2011, 09:26 PM
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wait up a minute...

before you go posting pics, have you considered applying for a copyright or patent for said idea?

Once you let the cat out of the bag, if you don't protect your assests anyone can take the ball & run with it. I'm not saying we've got a bunch of crooks around here, don't get me wrong, but this IS the internet and people of all sorts will have the ability to see it once you post it.

That being said, I'm curious to see what you've got going just as much as the next guy... I just don't want to see you get ripped off.


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post #14 of 78 Old 05-26-2011, 09:30 PM
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What Omaha said, plus don't forget FCC regs when building transmitting equipment (as it may be)

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post #15 of 78 Old 05-26-2011, 10:36 PM
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Quote:
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That's my biggest screwup when riding is forgetting to cancel my turn signals. I remember most of the time, but every once in a while
Anytime I see that I go.... noob.
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post #16 of 78 Old 05-26-2011, 11:20 PM
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Quote:
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What Omaha said, plus don't forget FCC regs when building transmitting equipment (as it may be)
Knowing alinosa, he wouldn't let something like that slip by. At the power levels the device uses, the signals not going very far, we're talking the milliwatt range, I'm wanting to say it was 100mw? Alinosa can clarify

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post #17 of 78 Old 05-27-2011, 08:10 AM
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Anytime I see that I go.... noob.
I've done that and I've ridden for 43 years.

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post #18 of 78 Old 05-27-2011, 08:12 AM
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Knowing alinosa, he wouldn't let something like that slip by. At the power levels the device uses, the signals not going very far, we're talking the milliwatt range, I'm wanting to say it was 100mw? Alinosa can clarify
Check with FCC. It costs nothing, but the consequences of not doing so might be prohibitive.

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post #19 of 78 Old 05-27-2011, 08:34 AM
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I've got no answers, but I've got a couple questions. Out of curiosity, what micro are you using? Do you have an idea what the current draw is on the board attached to the helmet? I'm thinking battery size vs battery life.

I would think you should be able to get a dev kit with all the I/Os pulled out and create something a little cleaner (for yourself anyways). I'm just picturing you driving down the road with something like this attached to the back of your skull bucket.


The blinker thing is a great idea. I've almost give up using my blinkers since I always forget to cancel them. I'm surprised someone hasn't come up with some sort of auto canceling mechanism. Cant really be that hard...



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post #20 of 78 Old 05-27-2011, 09:10 AM
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I do schematic capture and circuit board layout.

I'd cut you a great break on my rates if you need it, plus I know board houses where you can get PWB's at a decent cost.

PM me if you ever need help.

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post #21 of 78 Old 05-27-2011, 09:15 AM
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Quote:
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The blinker thing is a great idea. I've almost give up using my blinkers since I always forget to cancel them. I'm surprised someone hasn't come up with some sort of auto canceling mechanism. Cant really be that hard...
I've seen a couple of them. I think they are based on a timer...i.e. cancels after 15 or 20 secs or something.

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post #22 of 78 Old 05-27-2011, 09:39 AM Thread Starter
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I've got no answers, but I've got a couple questions. Out of curiosity, what micro are you using? Do you have an idea what the current draw is on the board attached to the helmet? I'm thinking battery size vs battery life.

I would think you should be able to get a dev kit with all the I/Os pulled out and create something a little cleaner (for yourself anyways). I'm just picturing you driving down the road with something like this attached to the back of your skull bucket.


The blinker thing is a great idea. I've almost give up using my blinkers since I always forget to cancel them. I'm surprised someone hasn't come up with some sort of auto canceling mechanism. Cant really be that hard...
That pic is what i have and EXACTLY what I'm trying to avoid. I'm using commercial radios that are already FCC-blessed. They provide a standardized network layer that can be accessed by any other device that also uses the same layer provided the encryption isn't used (I'm not). Now that Omaha_919 has mentioned it, I don't want to list details not too many anyways.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell everyone that this idea was originally conceived and prototyped by one of the other design teams when I was in school earning my EE. I've harassed some of the team members a couple of times and they aren't going forward with it. They haven't blessed my pursuit of it, so I need to talk to them. That being said, I do not and did not know how they implemented any of the features they offered (theirs was WAY cooler-HUD in the visor with rpm and speed-o readings plus the signaling stuff I mentioned) and am developing this independently. Not sure that any of that matters if they have a problem with it, but right now this is for me. If i decide to share my cool toy, then I will have to figure that out at that time.

Back to the deets: I'm using an off the shelf micro: the arduino uno. It's completely open source, and infinitely easy to get working. There are several variants of this microprocessor and I encourage anyone that is interested to look into this family of micros. arduino.cc will get you started and unfortunately, the deeper you dig, the more you want to buy and play with.

The radios are xbee modules. the ones that will ultimately go into the project will not be the pro version (the ones I'm tinkering with) since 1 mW is PLENTY to get from a bike to a helmet. the 60 mW that the pro version puts out is good for a mile line of sight (ymWILLv).

I'm not concerned with the current draw of the board, since the use of the expensive radios allows me to keep the board on the bike! the radio plus the bits needed to make drive the LEDs will pull <200 mW peak (for now) so a pair of AAAs should be good for a few rides. I'd like to get more sophisticated with the power, but that's a task further down on my requirements list.

for the blinker... I don't know that an audible indication is a good idea after thinking it through. My Shoei rf-1000 seems to roar at highway speeds, so getting anything heard at that speed will require some doing. That isn't the part that worries me. It's listening to that volume with nothing to balance out the noise when you are stopped or are moving slowly that worries me. I'm thinking a visual indication somehow would be better, but then again, would that be too busy? I'll have to try it and see. (If I ever get to the parts store to grab the right value of pull down resistor i might eventually get this thing strapped to my helmet.) Also, if I was feeling froggy, I could prolly rig an auto canceling scheme on the controller since it's bike-mounted. I read that Goldwings have to move more than a set distance and have been on for a set time and they will auto cancel once both conditions are met.

Thanks for all the interest and support (esp you, Bigdaa I've only found one place to prototype boards and they aren't *expensive* but they aren't cheap either.)

aln

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post #23 of 78 Old 06-15-2011, 10:50 AM Thread Starter
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Lightbulb mo' 'fo' as in more information (just a little bit)

Still *slowly* plucking away at this. I managed to fry some equipment and changed some other hardware up. Swapped the design back around to the original places for the micro controller and "dumb" radio sides. (uC is back on the helmet since driving the LEDs requires current amplifiers in order to be driven by just the radio in addition to extra components to minimize transients, and ...it just turned out to be a PITA so the lone radio will be back in the tail of the bike.) The controller is a new one, based on the same architecture but miniaturized and designed to work with the radios I selected. It also handles all the power functions I had dreaded having to figure out with the old uC. Right now, the setup is mostly self-contained. It runs off a Lithium-Polymer battery and can be charged via a USB mini-B connection. This lets the whole thing be rechargeable and small at the same time. I STILL haven't gotten the bike side wired in... It's too hot to work in the garage in the evenings and the weekends seem busier than the weekdays somehow. I'll get there eventually, thanks for your patience.

And now for some questions! YAY!

Playing with the new uC (uC is short for micro controller, for anyone confused by this... the little "U" looks like mu the greek letter which is the symbol for micro and "C" is for controller... for mostly obvious reasons.) I've been kind of stumped about how/where to attach it to my helmet. I found an enclosure that fits the battery, uC and radio pretty much perfectly. The "problem" is that it's a rectangular box and pretty much looks dumb when attached to the helmet. If not necessarily dumb, it isn't sexy.

So, what have you done/seen done with respect to mounting things to a helmet?

-Is it preferable to minimize the profile of the attachment and spread it out across the surface of the helmet? This will end up covering any design that resides on the helmet.

-Should the device remain as small as possible overall? the box is quite tiny and should it be fixed to the back of the helmet in a horizontal fashion may even be "invisible" on a dark helmet.

-Should the uC/radio/battery be located off-helmet? Simply mount the LEDs to the helmet and run a longish cable to the inside pocket of a jacket? I think this would have the least impact on the helmet, but is not as convenient as having the whole thing stuck to the helmet.

It's important to note that I do not/have not/will probably never design a helmet from the ground up. During the MSF class we were shown a helmet that had been run over with a truck (an 18-wheeler IIRC) and it was rashed pretty bad but did not deform to the point of breakage. The person was wearing it when it happened and then donated it to the school, FYI. I am not comfortable with the idea of compromising the strength of a helmet in order to mount the LEDs. The idea is to increase safety, not decrease it, after all. All this being said, there is no way I would drill into my helmet, nor would I suggest doing it to your own. Quite the opposite, actually. Several people with more ability than I possess designed the helmet to protect my head and I intend to let their work remain unmolested.

Thanks for hanging in their and powering through this post! Please feel free to offer up any advice/opinions/"you're a moron, stop spamming us with this stuff" you feel obliged to share.

aln

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post #24 of 78 Old 06-15-2011, 12:14 PM
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I've done that and I've ridden for 43 years.
So what you meant was, it comes with old age. lol.


Back on topic, I think you can drill into air dams and air vents w/o sacrificing the integrity of the helmet itself.

Also, I believe many helmets have these plastic pieces glued / taped on, so I don't see why you couldn't do the same with your creation.

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post #25 of 78 Old 06-15-2011, 01:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alinosa View Post
I actually followed a rider into his work parking lot when I saw he had this on. I thought it was a brake light since we were stopped at a light near the business park we both work in. I asked about it and he demonstrated the functions. When I asked about whether they lit up when he braked he looked crestfallen that they did not. (Sorry, guy that showed me his helmet.) The strobing definitely caught my attention, so a modulated brake signal would probably be better than one that just comes on. Will have to do that.
I have that helmet but never turn the light on because just a solid on or flashing pattern not tied into the brake light would seem to do more harm than good.

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post #26 of 78 Old 06-15-2011, 01:51 PM Thread Starter
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I have that helmet but never turn the light on because just a solid on or flashing pattern not tied into the brake light would seem to do more harm than good.
That thought crossed my mind as well, which triggered this crazy train.

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post #27 of 78 Old 06-15-2011, 01:58 PM
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Knowing alinosa, he wouldn't let something like that slip by. At the power levels the device uses, the signals not going very far, we're talking the milliwatt range, I'm wanting to say it was 100mw? Alinosa can clarify
Use bluetooth

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post #28 of 78 Old 06-15-2011, 01:59 PM
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Knowing alinosa, he wouldn't let something like that slip by. At the power levels the device uses, the signals not going very far, we're talking the milliwatt range, I'm wanting to say it was 100mw? Alinosa can clarify
Use bluetooth hell make it an Iphone app where it sticks on your helmet lol

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post #29 of 78 Old 06-15-2011, 02:04 PM Thread Starter
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Use bluetooth
BT = $$$. Is there something about BT that would provide a strong case for using it?

BT would be nice if I ever wanted to talk on my phone while riding, but I like the isolation that riding provides. (Me and the bike vs the cagers.) Having to answer a phone call would ruin that.

Honestly, as far as I can tell, BT doesn't provide any more usable features over the radios I picked. They are secure and provide a good range. Also the power output is selectable in something like 4 or 6 steps so I can minimize the RF exposure to the rider.

Appreciate the input!

EDIT:

As far as the iPhone app: I'm having to code WAY more than I care to do so doing even MORE is really not on my bucket list. Not to mention the hefty fee to get the app distributed legitimately. AND I would need a MAC to do the developing... Nah, app is out.

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post #30 of 78 Old 06-15-2011, 11:20 PM
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BT = $$$. Is there something about BT that would provide a strong case for using it?

BT would be nice if I ever wanted to talk on my phone while riding, but I like the isolation that riding provides. (Me and the bike vs the cagers.) Having to answer a phone call would ruin that.

Honestly, as far as I can tell, BT doesn't provide any more usable features over the radios I picked. They are secure and provide a good range. Also the power output is selectable in something like 4 or 6 steps so I can minimize the RF exposure to the rider.

Appreciate the input!

EDIT:

As far as the iPhone app: I'm having to code WAY more than I care to do so doing even MORE is really not on my bucket list. Not to mention the hefty fee to get the app distributed legitimately. AND I would need a MAC to do the developing... Nah, app is out.

Just a funny thought, keep on pushing man... I love new ideas!!!

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post #31 of 78 Old 06-16-2011, 11:52 AM
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Interesting idea -- there are similar products out there, none with turn signal functions though.

What other functions are you thinking about adding? As it was originally described the three signals needed for brake light / turn could be handled by a much simpler setup: the equivalent of a three button car remote transmitter sending pulse trains read by a micropower "wake up" receiver that activates all downstream circuitry only when a handshake initial pulse train is received. With proper design it should only draw 0.1mA at as low as 2.5 volts and occupy a board less than 1 square centimeter. Another advantage is the signal wavelength is defined by the rise time of the pulses, making incorporating the antenna onto the PC board very easy. With proper design using surface mount components the entire electronics package including the LED's can be mounted inside the light bar.

Does the uC have a sleep mode? If not your design draws 200 mA constantly and that power profile would be a deal breaker for many applications, especially for long trips or the usual inattentive user that doesn't always remember to charge the device. Along those lines it would be relatively easy to make an inductive charging bed the helmet is placed on that would maintain a full charge, that is as long as the user puts the helmet on the charger! Gotta engineer for stupidity, whether you like to or not.
There are other strategies for a minimal power profile such as multiplexing the LED's and carefully selecting passives to reduce the parasitic draw.

Other factors to consider are many states have requirements for how long a brake light may modulate before staying on steadily, and the position of turn signals which mounting on the helmet may violate.

Some very interesting helmet mounted HUD's:
Specifically for motorcycles:
Motion Research Corporation SportVue HUD
General / military use, and wireless display glasses in development:
Microvision: Wearable Displays
Those glasses are very interesting, but would require using IC dies and all the tooling necessary to use them.

On the subject of PCB manufacturers -- there are plenty of "free" PC design packages available put out by manufacturers that link directly to their sales department. I use some of these just to get a feel for the cost of a particular design, and most end up within 5% of others, meaning they are all using the same estimating software. You can, of course, make your own in short runs using photosensitive coated blanks -- I've been doing that for longer than I can remember -- and the average turn around time is a couple of hours instead of a couple of weeks.

Rob

If it has already been done, it is safe to assume it is possible to do it.
On the other hand, if it has not been done never assume it is impossible to do it.
------- Rob --------
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post #32 of 78 Old 06-17-2011, 01:32 PM
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Do what rob says above, and make it solar charging. Pretty much a done deal in my book!

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post #33 of 78 Old 02-11-2013, 02:07 PM Thread Starter
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Holy dead thread, Batman

Wow, June of 2011 was the last time I did anything about this?

Sadly, the answer is yes. In the last couple of weeks I was digging through some of my old geekdom and saw this mess of stuff that looked semi-complete and realized I hadn't thought about this in forever. So I put some serious time time into it and got it done. ISH. it's still kinda ugly and needs to be fine tuned but it's working and installed on the bike. (And helmet- I took the advice offered up in the thread and drilled the wing on the back of my helmet since it is just stuck on with some really nice tape or something. 5mm hole = perfect size of a 5mm LED. Who knew!?)

Anyways, I have video but it's horrid (used the mms setting on my phone and it's UGLY and in .3GP format...?) So, I'll grab decent video when I get home and show off the working prototype.

Final Score: Arduino Fio, xbee radios, surprisingly simple code (no fancy use of interrupts or such, which is good because I'm kinda simple), lots of pull down resistors, and some burns and swearing.

One box fits on the helmet and the other resides under the seat It *could* go into the tunnel made by the ractangular backbone of the bike but jamming an RF radio inside a steel tube seemed counterproductive.. I'm still debating packaging of the helmet side of the equation.... I haven't tested current draw but Li-Po is only 850 mAhs so it won't be a touring kind of setup. I'll do some current draw measurements and such for round two, whenever that happens.

Also, lucky me, my front brake switch took a dump, so whilst installing this contraption, I began to get progressively in a worse mood until I realized that it may not be MY part that is buggy. Sure enough, while testing the brake switch per the manual instructions I could see it was behaving strangely. Like displaying erratic values for resistance and not just open or closed. shorting the wires together for the front switch lit the brakes. YAY.

Anyways, to anyone that might still be interested in this idea, video this evening.

aln

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post #34 of 78 Old 02-11-2013, 03:19 PM
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post #35 of 78 Old 02-11-2013, 05:35 PM Thread Starter
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professional grade video

It isn't pretty and I'm not sure whose cluttered garage that is, but here IT is: THE video

It's worth pointing out that there are related videos of what appear to be polished versions of this idea. Who knew?

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post #36 of 78 Old 02-11-2013, 05:40 PM Thread Starter
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I still need to tweak the blink rate and figure out how to override the turn signals when I grab brake. I tried using the interrupts but all I could do was get the lights to BRIEFLY flicker. Anyone familiar with arduino programming and the use of intrrrupts?

The bikelinkllc.com product kooks pretty sweet. Not sure why after paying 200 bucks for their product they feel they need to get you for another couple of bucks for the app...?

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post #37 of 78 Old 02-12-2013, 10:01 AM
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DO WANT. That is cool.

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post #38 of 78 Old 02-14-2013, 11:47 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
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DO WANT. That is cool.
Thanks. In retrospect it wasnt too hard to figure out. Mostly remembering the stuff I should have already remembered from school.

I dont think I'll try to sell these. I know that the idea itself isnt patentable since my buddies in school demonstrated this in public. I just figured out what they did on my own. Once I am sure that it works while actually riding, I'll put together a how to with parts lists and (close to) step by step instructions on building (assembling) your own.

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post #39 of 78 Old 02-14-2013, 02:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alinosa View Post
Thanks. In retrospect it wasnt too hard to figure out. Mostly remembering the stuff I should have already remembered from school.

I dont think I'll try to sell these. I know that the idea itself isnt patentable since my buddies in school demonstrated this in public. I just figured out what they did on my own. Once I am sure that it works while actually riding, I'll put together a how to with parts lists and (close to) step by step instructions on building (assembling) your own.
Also cool. I look forward to seeing that! I would like to replicate your work, just for fun (definitely not for profit).

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post #40 of 78 Old 02-14-2013, 10:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alinosa View Post
I still need to tweak the blink rate and figure out how to override the turn signals when I grab brake. I tried using the interrupts but all I could do was get the lights to BRIEFLY flicker. Anyone familiar with arduino programming and the use of intrrrupts?

The bikelinkllc.com product kooks pretty sweet. Not sure why after paying 200 bucks for their product they feel they need to get you for another couple of bucks for the app...?
Nicely done so far.

It's relatively easy to do without an interrupt -- just continually check the brake input while in the other subroutines and route to the top. It will loop as long as it has an input, and break out as soon as it goes low. See the flowchart.

Rob
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