We’ve been making progress with the bike lights and whilst it might seem like one of those baking shows where the buns are instantly cooked and fresh out of the oven, we’ve done a bunch of prep work to get to this point.
Your inputs are helping us to refine the products so that they go from a product that we’ve developed in a silo - that may or may not fulfil all your needs - to a co-developed product where you get to make sure as much of what you want to see makes it to the final product as possible.
With that, I’d like to show you how the design of the bike light itself has evolved and the thought process behind it.
A need to stand out
As of today, the bike light market is a fairly crowded space with a lot of different brands and options to choose from and at a pretty wide price range.
When we look at smart bike lights, the options become a little more lacklustre.
Most of these lights work in a way you’d expect. Press a button, light turns on, press the button again to cycle through flashing modes and that about sums it up. Whilst this adequately solves the problem of cycling with a bike light to make the cyclist more visible on the road and to comply with local laws, it doesn’t really go far beyond that. There are some lights that address a really important issue; side visibility, but in my opinion, most bike light manufacturers aren’t really thinking about it enough, whilst the best solutions for side visibility haven’t really taken off for some reason.
That said, another Kickstarter campaign - the Arclight Pedals do a decent job of addressing side visibility. We heard a few of you mention them in our comments too and we also think they’re pretty cool.
Defining the shape of these bike lights has been an interesting exercise. As we know that these will be the first in a line of smart bike light products from Lumos, we’re not just defining the shape of these bike lights, but are instead defining a whole design language around what the complete family of lights will look like in the future. The challenge was coming up with a look and feel that works really well for the first bike light, but is also versatile enough to create new and interesting shapes for future bike lights.
Here’s how that went…
So we started with a simple form exploration to just throw out a few simple shapes and get the conversation started with the product team.
We found the ‘X’ designs to be pretty eye-catching and quite distinctive within the initial set of ideas. The triangular shape also stood out as being quite unique, but when thinking about the compromises we’d have to make on the battery size to achieve this shape (triangle shaped batteries are not very common at all) we decided the ‘X’ within the circular enclosure was worth exploring.
At this point, we were quite happy with the initial ‘box’ and so switched gears to start making it really functional. That meant figuring out the LEDs.
The Design of the LEDs
Since we’re making bike lights, the LEDs themselves are arguably the most important aspect of the product. So we spent a lot of time getting them right.
Our goals with the LEDs were to address the following set of highly scientific requirements:
- Be really bright
- Be really efficient and last long
- Be seen from any angle
- Be small and not take up too much space
- Make users say ‘ooooo’
From our early prototypes, we managed to achieve a few of these requirements, but the ones that were somewhat lacking were the brightness and we were only getting ‘ooo’ from first time users. The number of Os matter.
We wanted to crank out more power which meant that our battery would no longer be sufficient. We needed to either make the light bigger, or the shape squarer. But making it a box effectively dropped an O, so we went for something in between.
By ballooning the simple square, we’re able to still make it somewhat rounded and an interesting form in both look and feel.
We pushed forward with this new form direction and created our initial beta test units.
We received a bunch of really positive feedback and ideas on how to improve the lights further. There was just something that seemed to be missing though. Something that didn’t feel quite right.
We needed more Os!!!
There were actual benefits to this new LED direction. For starters, we were able to pack more diodes into the design, allowing for a fuller profile and to be seen from a wider angle. Whilst the ‘X’ direction seemed interesting, when we prototyped the ring COB option, there was an apparent favorite amongst the team, so we moved forward with this new direction for the LEDs.
Now whilst they certainly look better, we were still facing an issue with brightness and just how much power this setup can pump out without dying too fast.
Roughly where we want to be.
We went back to the drawing board and came up with another solution to the brightness issue. What if we had an always-on light, and then a separate LED to achieve our brightness requirement?
All of these take up the same amount of battery life. The way forward was obvious from here.
So where we’re at right now is that we have a COB component which carries the red and yellow lights for turn signals, and 3 high powered LEDs, 2 for red and one for white.
We wanted ‘running lights’ for the white setup as well, but unfortunately due to size constraints, had to prioritize the rear red light.
There were also a few questions in the survey about why we didn’t go for dedicated lights (i.e. a front version and a rear version) and the answer to that is to achieve the versatility that we prioritized for these particular lights.
The benefit to the customer is that they have the flexibility to use each light as they please. Say, for example, that one light unfortunately runs out of battery in the middle of a ride. With this design, the customer can decide which direction they need the extra light and can easily swap their lights around so that they have light where it’s most critical.
We do however intend to create actual dedicated front and rear lights in the future. They’re going to be a bit more special than just bigger dedicated versions of these lights, so stay tuned even if these particular lights are not for you.
There were a few other concerns about turn signal visibility during the daytime and we completely agree that this is something that needs to be addressed.
We ended up boosting the power of the turn signals so that the yellow diodes are now using up a bit more power when they’re activated. Since these particular lights aren’t on all the time, we figured it would be okay to have these consume a little more battery power than the red diodes to ensure that they’re really visible during the day.
It’s a bit tricky to capture actual brightness on camera, but hopefully these light cones will show that we’ve boosted the brightness by about 30% for the turn signals.
A happy accident
During one of our beta testing rounds, we were keen to try out the idea of a touch sensor to remove any physical button on the light.
Whilst this was a fun idea, in practice it wasn’t as robust as we wanted it to be. The lack of feedback made it difficult to tell whether a press had registered or not and there were plenty of instances of accidental presses. Additionally, wearing gloves whilst using the lights was a pain too since the button was capacitive, meaning that skin contact was required to activate it. We ultimately decided to drop this feature and to focus on a button that was easier to press with gloves on.
However, the aesthetic achieved by having a metallic plate right in the center of the light was a nice little feature we missed when it was removed. So we decided to bring it back in the form of a reflector dish that helps to focus the white beam a little and increase its brightness a bit further.
We’re still exploring chrome color options for the reflector dish and are considering a limited edition color for our launch. Let us know what colors you’d love to see.
It’s been a bit of a journey but we’re getting closer to the final design. The latest version of the light itself has gone through a number of iterations and improvements to the point where we’re running out of things to make better. There’s still a lot of stuff to share regarding all the other aspects, such as the user experience, which I’ll cover in the next post.
Tell us what you think
This was a deep dive into how we think about design here at Lumos and I hope you enjoyed getting a little glimpse of it. We still want to hear your thoughts about where we ended up with the light design, whether you like it or if you’d have preferred we took a different direction. Let us know in the comments and also feel free to suggest what else you’d like to hear about as we get closer towards launch!
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