UPDATE (July 2012): Revolights was named Professional Winner in the Transportation category of the Core77 Design Awards—congrats!
The bike light trend is now official: last week, we saw Benedikt Steinhoff's clever implementation of LEDs, hot on the heels of "Project Aura's" win in our inaugural design awards. I'm not sure a "drafting" metaphor is appropriate here, so let's just say we're seeing a veritable peloton of bicycle lighting systems, where each new design mutually supports the others through a halo (or is that aura?) effect.
Puns aside, Palo Alto-based "Revolights" are the latest lighting solution to turn up on our ever-turning radar. At first glance, it looks like a revision of "Project Aura," except that the rim-mounted LEDs somehow illuminate directly in front and behind the wheels in addition to the sides. This, of course, was the only major criticism of the otherwise very highly-regarded design, and I was curious as to how designer Kent Frankovich and his team surmounted this flaw.
It turns out that, for all the ostensible semblance between the two designs, Frankovich's approach is quite different from that of Ethan Frier and Jonathan Ota. The similarities end at the concept of rim-mounted LEDs: where "Project Aura's" lights were integrating into the rim along its inner circumference, "Revolights" actually consist of a piece of hardware that runs just along the rim. The diameter of the ring is slightly smaller than the rim itself, such that it is clipped to the outside of the spokes. The battery pack is attached to the hub, while a magnet in the fork detects the speed (as in most cycling computers).
Making the illumination ring slim allows for two functions; the first enables the ring to fit between the wheel and fork, as noted in the photo above. Yet because the ring is slim, it is also able to be mounted offset from the plane of the wheel, as seen in the photo below, allowing for both increased visibility and light projection. Important to note: in the photo below one side has a light ring installed, the other side of the tire does not.
As with most accessories, I'm somewhat concerned with the additional weight and bulk of additional hardware, though I must admit that the visual effect (demonstrated in the video at top) is quite nice.
This actually marks the fourth (and likely final) prototype of "Revolights": the previous three versions are well-documented on their site. It looks like they started out clipping the LEDs at the ends of the spokes (not unlike "Project Aura") and then on a polypropylene ring within the spokes, but eventually realized that this armature would be more practical on the outside of the spokes. The speed measurement is linked to the directionality of LEDs but not their brightness (as in "Project Aura"), though this feature could probably be incorporated into future versions of the "Revolight."
In other words, the "Revolight" and "Project Aura" seem all but destined to go head to head on Kickstarter in the near future...