New SRAM patent includes voice-activated shifting

SRAM could be about to bring a range of new wireless control systems to the market

Clock16:21, Monday 24th July 2023
New SRAM patent includes voice-activated shifting.

US patent 11,703,118

New SRAM patent includes voice-activated shifting.

It may soon be possible to change gears through voice commands and special wireless gloves according to a patent recently published in the US by SRAM.

In patent 11,703,118 (US), SRAM has shared a range of designs for new wireless control systems which would control a range of components, including “bicycle gear changers and/or bicycle suspensions and other bicycle components and systems.”

Lots of potential methods of doing this are laid out, but the main ones include through voice activation or special gloves which would detect finger movements or hand placement.

SRAM has already come up with some unique wireless technology in recent years, releasing their eTap AXS blip shifters at the beginning of 2022. These can be mounted anywhere on handlebars for greater ease and convenience, however SRAM wants to take this a step further by completely removing the need for a shifting button or paddle.

They’ve come up with the new designs to improve safety, especially in situations when riders have to move their hands to the shifters from another part of the handlebars.

“There exists a need to provide control of remotely operated electronic devices of a bicycle while allowing the rider to maintain contact with the bar and a visual line of sight with the road ahead,” SRAM explains in the patent.

“The present invention provides a means of wireless control of multiple devices without the rider changing hand positions on the handlebars.”

A variety of designs are put forward in the patent, but most relate to a special glove with in-built sensors. These would communicate with the derailleurs or other components based on specific finger movements.

In one example, each finger on a glove would contain conductive pads. When two of these pads come into contact, it would complete an electrical circuit and send a command to the relevant component, like in the example below.

“In Fig. 6, the index finger and the thumb of the rider are touching. This particular contact combination might indicate that a rear derailleur upshift is desired, and accordingly, will result in the generation and transmission of a control signal.”

Another design would use pressure sensors attached to the fingers of the gloves. When a certain amount of pressure is applied to the sensors, for example by pressing the handlebars, the gloves would carry out the desired action given to that particular sensor. This pressure would need to meet a “predetermined threshold” before any commands are sent to the relevant component.

A third option uses accelerometers. Accelerometers measure the acceleration, or change in velocity, of an object.

According to SRAM, “a CPU may be programmed to only recognise accelerations above a predetermined value as an intended shift signal, thereby allowing the rider to generate this value by tapping on the bar itself with sufficient force.”

There are further clues in the patent about what the gloves may look like, with the American brand suggesting that they could contain “some form of display or device to generate some feedback which may be visible or audible.”

SRAM has certainly come up with some unique glove-inspired designs, but the most eye-catching part of the patent is right at the end in the form of a voice-activated wireless control system. By the sounds of things, we could one day be asking Siri to change gears.

For this design, a microphone is mounted on a rider’s helmet which then uses voice-recognition technology to understand spoken commands. These commands could be used for a range of functions, from shifting gears to controlling suspensions and “any other controllable components or systems of the bicycle.”

What would those commands be? SRAM has handily provided some examples, including “two-up” if a rider wants to shift two gears up.

The patent was only published July 18, so we don’t expect too many updates on these designs anytime soon, but we can’t wait to find out what new wireless control technology SRAM brings to the market.

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