Now, 53 years later, a handful of companies are looking to extend the purpose of a motorcycle helmet beyond mere protection, incorporating new technologies that turn a lid into a dashboard, cell phone, GPS, rear-view camera, music player and more. Reevu, Skully and Nuviz are three separate enterprises that have unveiled technologically-decked helmets or helmet accessories with some, all or more of the features mentioned above. Are we looking at revolution in helmet technology, or is this simply an instance of gadget overload?
“For riders, awareness is crucial.” So says Marcus Weller, Ph.D, the Chairman and CEO of Skully Helmets. “We designed the Skully P1 to operate as a natural extension of the senses. It sees, it hears, it feels, and, most importantly, it thinks and connects you with the rest of the world. This is just the beginning for this platform.”
The P1 model features a Heads-Up Display (HUD) system the company calls “Skully Synapse.” The patent-pending system “enhances awareness of its users by linking advanced optics to an intelligent network of cameras, sensors and microprocessors.” The bulk of the hardware is housed in the rear fin of the helmet and displays a feed from the 180-degree rearview camera that provides a “full rear-facing panorama, including complete side-to-side visibility.” The feed displays at the bottom and to the side of the rider’s field of vision, which Skully asserts is “unobtrusively within the rider’s line of sight.” The “Synapse” system also features GPS navigation and the Skully Operating System connects via Bluetooth to iPhone and Android, allowing riders to play music, take calls, send texts and more via voice commands. The Skully P-1’s battery is claimed to last nine hours and recharges via a standard micro-USB cable.
Reevu has been marketing its RV MSX1 since 2010. The helmet features a fully mechanical, polycarbonate reflection system that bends an image from a plate on the back of the helmet through the outer shell casing to a small mirror located at the top-center of a rider’s field of vision. Reevu designers emphasize displaying the rearview information in the rider’s periphery to mitigate obstruction to the field of view and allow the eyes to gather information without having to refocus.
Reevu is working to up the ante with a new intelligent helmet that features a Heads-Up Display system that will project everything from engine diagnostic data to GPS navigation in the same space as the small mirror on the previous model. Again, Reevu is focused on presenting data in the upper periphery and allowing a rider to use both eyes when accessing data to lessen the need to refocus.
“We are currently in talks with two of the World’s leaders in this field and their engineers have been astounded as to what can be achieved with the Reevu helmet design,” says Marcus Steele Engineering Team Leader at Reevu. “The trick is to deliver the information only in the peripheral vision of the rider so that there is no distraction from the track or road. It’s the same as the Gear shift LED array positioned on the Formula one car models, so that the driver can see the image without refocusing or looking directly at it”
Nuviz is an independent device that projects a Heads-Up Display on any full-face motorcycle helmet on the market.
Nuviz stands apart from Reevu and Skully because it’s an independent device that will attach to the chinbar of any existing helmet. The Nuviz Ride:HUD projects a transparent image via Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCoS) Microdisplay in the lower right-hand corner of the field of vision. The Ride:HUD offers navigation, telemetry and weather information, takes pictures and video and links to smartphones via Bluetooth 4.0. Riders can toggle through the different displays using a handlebar-mounted control unit.
Voice activation of the Nuviz system comes when connected to the Ride:CLOUD smartphone app. Ride:CLOUD also makes it possible to share video and photos and allows riders to connect with one another on the road. Nuviz claims a battery life of three-four hours and the unit will be rechargeable.
The Ride:HUD connects to the helmet via high-strength adhesive film and the mounting plate attaches directly to the helmet. The company asserts both the adhesive and mounting plate can be removed without damage to the helmet. The system is also rated to be water and dust resistant, though water on the visor may distort the image on the display surface somewhat.
Nuviz is the result of collaboration between Holoeye Systems and APX Labs. Holoeye develops LCoS systems for aerospace, military, industrial and life science applications while APX Labs is a software and mobile device development firm.
As of the writing of this article, Skully Helmets is still conducting Beta testing of its product but confirms on its website that the new P1 will release sometime in 2014. Reevu already has its MSX-1 and FXS-1 rearview helmets on the market but no word yet on when we can expect to see the intelligent version for sale. Nuviz is aiming on a Summer 2014 launch of its Ride:HUD unit with a target price of $599 dollars. The Ride:CLOUD app will be available to smartphone users free of charge. There’s no indication of a price point for the Skully or Reevu helmets yet.