Yesterday I received an email from B’Twin’s press department, it was entitled “the 1st bike created by a global community” (in French). That made me curious, and after reading the email and the attached press release, it was clearer what they meant by this statement : the bicycle brand has launched a co-creation contest on Local Motors’ community website The Forge to ask people to design a new personal transport vehicle, the “B’Twin Vélomobile”. A couple of months ago, Quirky has held a short project about reinventing the bicycle, but it was more an entertainment/PR/community animation project than an actual co-creation project. Want to know a little bit more about B’Twin’s contest?
What is Local Motors? What is B’Twin?
Just a reminder: Local Motors is a new type of company based on a community of about 15,000 contributors to co-create projects around automobile. The company operates a website called The Forge on which people can submit designs to specific challenges and contests. Since 2008, there have been more than 60 challenges on The Forge, from the first one called A Californian Off-Road Machine to famous projects like the Rally Fighter, a car that has actually been designed, engineered and produced by people from this community. Recently, Local Motor has opened up its community to branded challenges with Reebok or Shell… and now B’Twin Bicycles.
B’Twin is the cycling brand of the French sports retailer Oxylane. Oxylane is present in more than 20 countries in the world and sells a wide variety of sporting goods, a lot of which are branded by in-house brands like Kalenji (running), Domyos (fitness), Wed’ze (ski) or B’Twin (cycling). As I reported in october 2011, Oxylane started it’s first co-creation project with the B’Twin brand and a specific community called B’Twin Lab. This community is like a spin-off of the B’Twin Club, just that it’s supposed to attract creatives and inventors to share their creativity in specific challenges. The B’Twin Lab is only in French and it has had difficulties attracting a motivated community… that’s probably why Oxylane decided to give Local Motors a try!
What is the contest about?
Design a lightweight, customizable, urban friendly tricycle that can accomodate two driving positions, provides electric-assist and protection from weather and collision, can be connected to a smartphone, and can fold up to ease parking
That’s basically what the brief says. To be honest, that’s quite a lot of guidelines for a crowdsourcing contest, and I’m curious to see what people will come up with. But Local Motors know how to stimulate its community (that’s probably why B’Twin chose them as a partner) and the brief provides useful material for participants : a B’Twin brand video for those who don’t know B’Twin, a video about a city’s typical transportation issues and a storyboard that illustrates a story. There’s also a long list of technical specs, which basically say what the tricycle has to be able to do. There are USD 15,000 of prizes to grab for the three best entries, which is a significant amount, without being above average of this type of contests.
The press release that I received states that “the design that will make it to first place will get to the next part of the challenge called Velomobile Engineering Challenge : Part 1“. Indeed, there will be two follow-up engineering contests on The Forge, so it’s a series of three challenges that we talk about here. What about the outcome? Cautiously, B’Twin states that…
While B’Twin has not decided whether it will produce the Vélomobile or not, the company hopes that the Local Motors community will create several models that can really be considered as prototypes, and that could even go into production
Update (June 4th 2012): B’Twin and Local Motors have just announced the winners of the contest. The Local Motors community voted on the 3 best concepts, and B’Twin and Local Motors jointly determined the order of these three finalists. They all agreed that the winning concept was the Velocity, deisgned by John Bukasa (see his personal website here). The designer from New Zealand wins USD 7,500 and the right to see his tricycle concept engineered and prototyped by B’Twin.
The two follow-up designs came from Uruguay (the B’Twin Urban Trike from Gonzalo Trasotero) and from Italy (Urban_Vélo from Marcello Bertoldi). Sylvain Venant, B’Twin’s innovation manager, says that the company will probably use design elements from all three concepts for the development of the final tricycle. It order to get there, B’Twin will launch the first of two engineering competitions at the end of the month, on June 26th. “B’Twin’s objective is to optimize functionality and to reduce complexity of the concept“, the press release says about the follow-up contests. A great project… but I start wondering whether people will actually by this type of vehicle?
Again, stay tuned to this post to get the next updates about this series of contests. I’ll stay up to date!