The first rough user test with the concept handlebar revealed to me that the idea of having the handlebars turn themselves in the direction of the navigation is definitely not feasible. The core of this idea was that the handles, like a self-driving car, is taking over the reign and turns automatically by a small degree to indicate where the user is supposed to go without turning the wheel itself. For that, there is a fix part, the lower bar, and a higher bar, which moves to the left or to the right. Horns, the part which is to be hold, are attached to both bars, while the upper area, attached to the upper bar, is moving accordingly. It resembles a compass in its movement. There were several aspects which fascinates me of that idea. The feature of including an autonomous bike steps it significance up to one level with cars. It would be provocative to the purportedly technical advance of cars, while inserting a playful characteristic to the otherwise lifeless handles. Many functional problems were already occurring while drawing out the concept. How would a person trust a handle which would move ever so slightly? What if in an emergency the user needs to steer by themselves, how would the handles know and tighten the grip to the wheel? It seems like a risky concept, which called for a user test.
The prototype was made from blue foam, magnets and a lot of tape, while the technology was set up with Arduino. The prototype was for a one time use only, installed and ready to be tested in one day. The weather was quite tough the last days, the constant snow and the cold is definitely not suitable for a bike user test. Therefore, we decided to give it a try in the DJCAD hallway. Falling over wouldn’t hurt as much and was slightly less likely than falling over on a slip of ice.
The person helping me with this user test is Kevin Sinclair. In the user test, it got clear very soon, that he would not put his hands on the moving part of the handlebars, but rather see it as a visual stimulus. Even after pointing it out, he felt uneasy to have automatically moving parts where his hands hold the handlebar. We stopped the user test after 20 minutes due to the reason, that Kevin was not comfortable on his bike when holding moving handles. The user test failed fairly quickly in that sense, which gave me the final confirmation to let go of that idea. This rapid user testing showed once again, that I can predict many things, but if the user feels uneasy it is not the design to go for. It would be interesting as a critical exhibition piece, which is though not what I want to achieve with this project. It is a fair failure, but I am happy I tried it and I can go on with a new approach tomorrow.