ybike 1.0 Roundup

January 14th, 2009 by tarikh

In this post you’ll find Photos, Videos, Source Code, CAD files and Schematics for the recently completed Purple Pedals project. Purple Pedals saw us make 20 solar-powered, geotagging, photo-taking, flickr-uploading bikes to be ridden in cities all over the world.

20 Bikes get final touches before shipping

(20 Bikes get final touches before shipping)

So I’d like to put a bow on our little bike project and share some assets and ideas in one place. After last week’s post, a few of you wondered if we were serious. Despite our cheeky tone, the truth is that Yahoo has continued to support, promote, hire and trust us to handle some incredibly unique projects since the Ybox. The Purple Pedals project, a prime example of this, was a great chance for Uncommon Projects to explore new areas of research including location-based technologies, hardware fabrication and solar power–all on Yahoo’s generous dime.

Because our projects are often so different, the complimentary ingredients of curiosity and faith serve as the special sauce to successfully realizing a given project. It’s not unusual to start a project like Purple Pedals without knowing how we’re going to get to the finish line. So we ask a lot of questions, tap our network of talented friends and use our experience in Research and Development to create rapid prototypes along the path to figuring out what will actually work. Getting something out the door on time and on budget is its own artform. And we take pride in our ability to apply R&D to a realistic schedule and a well-honed product.

There’s another element that makes our work fun–being able to share the learning with a larger audience and seeing them run with it. Take, for example, the YBox. Presented as a proof of concept, and then an open-sourced kit, it was updated and improved by Darco and Ladyada resulting in the Ybox 2.0. The new version is cheaper, sleeker and has more functionality than the original. While we didn’t have time to support (let alone continue developing) the project, opening it up to the community allowed it to mature in ways we hadn’t ever foreseen. And who knows, maybe this even had something to do with Yahoo’s decision to move their widget engine onto the TV? I for one think having simple, networked text channels and developer access to them would be awesome. I’d love to see Yahoo get it right.

Everyone benefits from an open approach–Uncommon, Yahoo and the larger community of developers and users out there. From our end, we like playing with soldering irons, fabricating hardware and creating killer software. And we’d like to continue making a living doing what we love. So our perfect project is getting paid to use these skills to solve unique tech challenges. Plus, with each project we file the research back into our company quiver, growing our knowledge, experience and repertoire of services as we go. In this way, we’re getting paid to learn while our projects get tighter, stronger and faster. On Purple Pedals for example, we had the chance to explore the realms of metal fabrication, hardware and software integration, location-based services and the creation and storage of electrical power from solar and wheel generated electrical systems.

But how does Yahoo benefit from the project? Compared to traditional marketing it’s a hell of a lot cheaper. It’s also more novel–instead of talking about innovation it actually makes innovation, creating self-generating press along the way. Purple Pedals was dreamt up by Yahoo’s talented Buzz Marketing Team. I suspect part of their strategy is a response to the saturated advertising space in which ever more expensive commercials and media buys race to the bottom to grab our attention. As traditional advertising gets more bombastic it also gets less effective. Purple Pedals offers a fresh and interesting take on this state of affairs by questioning whether advertising really has to suck. Within this context, Purple Pedals makes sense–it’s cheaper than making Super Bowl ads, it’s novel and it’s even helpful in that it lets riders document and share their rides with everyone. Finally, it underscores a commitment to fun and innovation that dovetails nicely with the larger marketing message that Yahoo wants to communicate.

The mandate from Buzz from the beginning of the project was to open the code and share our research. In other words, to be as helpful and generous to the larger community of developers as possible. This is smart, Long Tail, thinking that will keep projects like Purple Pedals relevant far longer than the traditional blip of advertising. Why? Because over time, web devs and search spiders will continue to link back to the code and resources. In the end, and I think this ties back into the Buzz idea, this type of marketing–helpful, fun, useful, generous, novel–can create its own inertia. Instead of the PR department having to write press releases, bloggers, participants and fans will do it for them. They’ll also do it for free and do it for the right reasons–because they appreciate Yahoo’s effort and associate that generosity with the brand itself.

So we are including everything here for you–from our location based research, to our source code, our CAD files, electronics schematics and PCB design documents. We’re hoping that, like the YBox project, this will inspire developers out there (and Yahoo itself) to continue working on and improving the idea.


Front and Rear Cases (AutoCAD 2007 Format)
Fabrication Visualizations and Parts List
Source Code
Location-based Technology Research
PCB Files and Electronics Schematic
Master Electronics Parts List

Previous Posts
Josh Post (with Source Code)
Heather Post (Solar Power)
Ongoing Purple Pedals Blog

Mor Naaman (Location-based Technology Advice)
Michael Sharon (Location-based Technology Research)
Quill Hyde (Fabrication)
Heather Dewey-Hagborg (Engineering)
Lee Azzarello (Mr. Bicycle)

All ybikes output
Making-of Collection

An Uncommon Solution
What Are Purple Pedals
Ready for the Road
Not Just a Box
Electra’s Influence

Special Thanks
Jason, Brian, Sean, Brit, Lyniel, Havi, Jeanne and, of course, the ybike Riders!

One Response to “ybike 1.0 Roundup”

  1. This is a very great post. I will print out the post and read it carefully again. Thanks

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