The world of wearables is vastly reaching out its tendrils to every facet of our lives, integrating technology into things that we wear. This time we find that the next segment of society to be graced with wearable tech are motorcycle enthusiasts. Last week saw an announcement from California based start-up Skully, who unveiled their new brain child, the AR-1 wearable bike helmet. The AR-1 features a ton of cool stuff such as a Heads Up Display, visual GPS, 180 degree wide view camera and more… but despite being impressed, I do have some serious concerns.
The AR-1 from Skully professes to bring a new era to motorcycle helmets, introducing what the company calls an advanced situational awareness system that will actually help keep biking as safe as possible, while also integrating the latest connectivity, GPS and mapping technologies. The helmet itself is certainly a work of technological innovation, kind of like Google smart glass, but with several features that are very much catered for the needs of enthusiast motorcyclists.
Skully AR-1 Smart Helmet: Key Features
- Lightweight, aerodynamic shell
- 3D laser-cut foam for a perfect fit
- Fully adjustable flow-through ventilation
- Anti-fog, anti-scratch, anti-glare face shield
- Quick release chin strap and visor
- SKULLY SYNAPSE (TM) Heads Up Display system with voice control
- Visual GPS navigation
- 180 degree wide angle rearview camera
- Bluetooth connectivity to smartphone
- Internet connectivity via smartphone
Although it is fair to say that I am no expert when it comes to motorcycle helmets, I am pretty sure that the actual specs, design and quality of the helmet itself sans wearable tech, is pretty impressive. 3D Laser-cut foam, adjustable flow through ventilation and a face shield that is resistant to glare, fog and scratches certainly makes the AR-1 sound like a quality piece of kit to my geeky ears.
Like many wearable technologies, the Skully Smart Helmet should also raise plenty of issues. Just as Google Glass raises issues of privacy with people fundamentally opposed to being photographed or videoed surreptitiously, the Skully Helmet raises serious issues regarding road safety, and I think there are several valid cases to be made.
The AR-1 integrates a whole bunch of cool tech that has been integrated into cars, like smartphone integration so that drivers can access emails, receive notifications, make phone calls and more. What you can and cannot do from the comfort of your driver’s seat is continually evolving and improving, and road legislation too has had to play its part in the shifts that new technology brings. Remember when cruising around with one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding a feature phone to your ear was as acceptable as driving barefoot? In most cities of the world it’s now deeply heinous and a criminal offense.
The Skully AR-1 is a remarkable feat of engineering, computer and materials science, of that I have no doubt. However, some of the potential functions and features will have to be carefully considered before the product actually comes to market (note: beta testers / early adopters can involved now, but supply is currently extremely limited).
Having a HUD that helps you navigate your route is acceptable in my mind, but answering calls, emails and other notifications would prove to be a distraction no? When it comes to having an Internet experience through the helmet, I am totally concerned and the main reason is that a high speed motorcycle is different from an SUV. The Skully is targeting enthusiasts who will tend towards really fast, high-performance vehicles. Perhaps my concerns are made more serious because I live in Asia where roads are somewhat different from those long expressways in the US where the Skully is being developed, but most US bikers will have to deal with serious traffic once in a while.
From a geek’s perspective I love the Skully AR-1. From the perspective of a pedestrian in Taipei… I am somewhat concerned.