In this article, we’ll be discussing a Mounting Device and Detection System by Shimano, US patent 10,940,807. The publication date is March 9th, 2021 and the filing date is Feb 12, 2019. This patent has been granted as novel.
I thought this was going to be a short article showing Shimano’s new gimbal, but this is much more than just a camera stabilizer. This one is mind-blowing, especially considering this is for a bike. The system is 10 in the image below.
Brief Summary (tl;dr)
Shimano are introducing a sensor and a gimbal, where the sensor is then attached to the gimbal. The gimbal is attached to the handlebars and is similar to any gimbal, it just keeps the sensor steady. Here’s where it gets spicy — the sensor is not a camera. It’s a Li-DAR system. In short, the sensor transmits electromagnetic light waves (any wave other than visible) to your surroundings and the sensor detects the reflected light to understand your surroundings. The system in this document should be able to know the position, location, and shape of whatever is around you. I’m unsure as to what Shimano are doing with this spatial information, but it’s possible this is for an active bike or very efficient and accurate trail mapping.
The image to the right shows an example Li-DAR image of the seafloor (source wiki). The different colors represent a distance from the sensor, so the sensor knows the position and shape of everything in your surroundings.
First, some definitions, all from Wikipedia:
A gimbal is a pivoted support that permits rotation of an object about an axis. A set of three gimbals, one mounted on the other with orthogonal pivot axes, may be used to allow an object mounted on the innermost gimbal to remain independent of the rotation of its support (e.g. vertical in the first animation). For example, on a ship, the gyroscopes, shipboard compasses, stoves, and even drink holders typically use gimbals to keep them upright with respect to the horizon despite the ship’s pitching and rolling.
Li-DAR (light detection and ranging) is a method for determining ranges (variable distance) by targeting an object with a laser and measuring the time for the reflected light to return to the receiver. Lidar can also be used to make digital 3-D representations of areas on the earth’s surface and ocean bottom, due to differences in laser return times, and by varying laser wavelengths. It has terrestrial, airborne, and mobile applications.
The image to the left shows an airplane with a Li-DAR system. This gets a little more complicated with refraction of water, but this is basically how it works.
Photo Credit: Elprocus
Lidar is not new, and has been used for a long time in arial-ground mapping, archaeology, and autonomous cars (think Tesla accident avoidance), among others.
Electromagnetic spectrum: In physics, electromagnetic radiation (EM radiation or EMR) refers to the waves (or their quanta, photons) of the electromagnetic field, propagating (radiating) through space, carrying electromagnetic radiant energy. It includes radio waves, microwaves, infrared, (visible) light, ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma rays. All of these waves form part of the electromagnetic spectrum.
The visible light spectrum is the part of the electromagnet spectrum (above) that we humans can actually see. Visible light is part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The image above shows most light frequencies and the tiny visible light spectrum in the middle.
Shimano are over here in 2031, while we’re stuck in 2021.
They’re developing a gimbal system to hold a camera, but in this case, the camera isn’t the same kind we’re used to. It’s technically a sensor, and it functions in spectrums outside visible light. In short, the sensor doesn’t emit or detect visible light, like what you and I can see. They’re going a few steps further.
A while back, I had a little discussion with someone on Pinkbike about Live Valve, and how it works. The basic argument was that Live Valve doesn’t actually anticipate; it just reacts. You hit a bump, and the bike reacts to that bump. Well, things are changing with this new Shimano idea.
Imagine your bike could literally see your terrain and surroundings. The bike would send a light signal, that light would bounce off objects and reflect back to the sensor. The bike would parse the reflected light to form a 3D plot of your surroundings in real-time. Well, that’s exactly what’s going on here.
In addition to the terrain sensing, Shimano also have a gimbal that sits on the handlebars of a bike. The gimbal can automatically adjust the position of the sensor to keep the sensor straight and level, just like any other gimbal system.
The intended novelty here appears to be the sensor transmits and senses light information outside the visible light spectrum (30GHz or greater), contains a protection structure around the sensor, and a gimbal attached to the protection structure.
Again, this is Shimano, so there’s no problem or solution statement. This is a pretty complex system with a very specific scope. If Shimano want to see your surroundings, they’re probably going to use it in active bike systems. Or maybe they’re going to use it for very fast trail mapping? Hard to tell what they’re thinking on this one.
Shimano do have one statement on an advantage to the gimbal:
[The gimbal] reduces the processes performed by the detection device in accordance with changes of the posture of the human-powered vehicle.
It’s important to note that the gimbal and the sensor are not electrically connected. They’re separate pieces working independently. Sensor data does not effect gimbal positioning.
Figure 2 shows the whole system. There’s an entire gimbal system holding the sensor (inside 18). I’m not going too far into how a gimbal works, but I’ll share a little on how Shimano’s is described. There is a posture information detector 32 that detects the position of the camera. That detector sends information through a controller to some actuators to adjust the position of the sensor — keeping the camera nice a steady.
…[the detector] detect[s] information related to the posture of the detection device 12. [the actuators are] configured to rotate the detection device 12 based on the detection result of the posture information detector 32… This stabilizes the posture of the detection device 12 and improves the detection accuracy of the detection device 12.
As far as the sensor goes, there’s two steps: transmit electromagnetic waves to your surroundings and detect the reflected electromagnetic waves to map your surroundings. Mapping your surroundings helps understand position, location, and shape of everything around you.
The detection device 12 outputs an electromagnetic wave having a frequency that is greater than or equal to 30 GHz and excluding frequencies in the visible light range. The detection device 12 detects a reflected electromagnetic wave.
In short, Shimano are developing a Li-DAR system for a fucking bike.
In other words, one example of the detection device 12 is a lidar detector that is configured to output an electromagnetic wave and then detect a reflected electromagnetic wave.
They don’t state it explicitly, but the reflected waves are used to map the surroundings, as with all Li-DAR systems.
The surrounding of the human-powered vehicle A includes an area located in at least one of forward (traveling direction), sideward, and rearward directions from the human-powered vehicle…
Shimano state the electromagnetic waves can be:
…ultraviolet, infrared, a submillimeter wave, and a millimeter wave…
Nowhere in this document does it say where the information is actually going, or what they’re going to do with the information. Bummer.
Shimano show that the automatic gimbal isn’t necessary with a few other examples of sensor mounts. They’ve even got a little jack-in-the-box design.
Wireless is so 2020. This is some future shit. Your bike sees and knows your surroundings. Better yet, it’ll know your surroundings infinitely better than you ever will. Your brain cannot comprehend your environment anywhere near the scope these computer systems can. Every tree, every rock, every root, every horse shit – it’ll know. I see a lot of horse doodoo on trails around me.
But seriously, this one is wild. This goes further than any TPMS, wireless, anti-dive, Live-Valve, whatever. This kind of tech is used in fighter jets. I’d be surprised if they were using this system for anything other than an active bike or for trail mapping. I can’t wait to see some follow-up documents explaining what they’re actually going to do with this data.