Motorcycle helmets exist for one reason: to keep riders’ heads safe. But the folks at a new startup called Skully think helmets should do more.
Available for preorder starting today for a whopping $1,399, the Skully AR-1 — the first product from San Francisco-based Skully — features an augmented-reality interface that projects everything from a rearview camera feed to turn-by-turn directions on a small display below your eye while you ride.
Scheduled for release in May 2015, the AR-1’s biggest feature is its ultra-wide rearview camera that gives you a 180-degree view of what’s behind you, eliminating the need to swing your head around to check your surroundings.
The video feed from the camera appears on a small heads-up display below your right eye, ensuring that it doesn’t block your field of vision.
The AR-1 also includes Bluetooth connectivity and a smartphone companion app (for Android and iOS), which lets you sync the helmet with your phone so you can make and receive calls and play music from services like Pandora. Navigation is handled by the helmet’s built-in GPS antenna.
All these features are controlled via Skully’s built-in voice recognition software. So if you want to listen to some tunes, you just have to tell the helmet what you want to hear, and it will handle the rest.
As each motorcycle and rider are different, the Skully companion app lets you calibrate your helmet before you put it on. Doing so allows the app to automatically determine the optimal position for the helmet’s rearview camera to provide the best view for each rider.
The Skully AR-1 is the brainchild of Marcus Weller. An avid rider, Weller was in an accident in 2011, when he took his eyes off the road to read a nearby sign.
It was that incident that led Weller to develop Skully with the hope that future accidents could be averted through the implementation of a heads-up display that provides riders with a view of what’s behind them.
It will be interesting to see, however, if the AR-1’s display proves itself to be more of a distraction to riders than a benefit. Having a small screen in their peripheral vision may lead some riders to take their focus off the road more often than they would otherwise.
What’s more, the ability to make and receive calls, though hands-free, could also draw a rider’s attention from the road. The U.S. government’s campaign against “distracted driving” includes phone calls made by the driver, hands-free or not.
Still, if produced and used properly, the Skully AR-1 has a chance at preventing accidents and making driving easier for motorcyclists. We’ll be sure to review the helmet as soon as it comes out next year.
You can preorder the Skully AR-1 from Skully’s website for $1,400, but remember, it won’t arrive at your front door until 2015.