Which catches your attention quicker, an illuminated pedestrian symbol, or a plain old light? According to research conducted at the University of Oxford, the human brain will always notice known symbols faster than it notices generic lights, particularly in environments where there are already various other lights present. With that in mind, a group from the university has now developed Brainy Bike Lights – bicycle head- and tail lights which feature an LED "cyclist" symbol instead of just a row of bulbs.

Tests conducted by the team showed that people were able to identify and respond to the presence of a Brainy Bike Light about 100 milliseconds faster than they could to a regular bike light. More specifically, they were able to discern that the light was in fact a bike light, as opposed to some other light source amidst the night time traffic.

While 100 milliseconds might not sound like much, it would amount to a distance of 1.34 meters for a car traveling at 30 mph (4.4 ft at 48 km/h). That's certainly enough to make the difference between a close call and a collision, in cases where the driver has to brake or swerve.

The lights themselves are claimed to be visible from a distance of up to 20 meters (66 ft), and through a field of view of almost 180 degrees. Operating modes include static, flashing, intense static and intense flashing – the headlight battery can deliver about 50 hours of use when flashing, while the tail light manages around 200.

A set of both lights can be pre-ordered now for £45 (US$75), with shipping scheduled to begin on April 15th.

The somewhat similar Blaze device also utilizes an illuminated cyclist symbol, although it projects that symbol onto the road in front of the rider, to let motorists know that a bike is approaching from behind.

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