Skully AR-1 Helmet Hands-On: The World's First HUD Motorcycle Helmet

With a 180-degree rearview camera, Bluetooth and futuristic styling, Skully Helmets is bringing a fighter pilot-style Heads Up Display (HUD) to your everyday motorcycle ride. We're the first publication to experience Skully in the real world.

Hands On With The World's First HUD Motorcycle Helmet

Australian Editor's Note: Motorcycle helmets like the Skully are technically illegal in Australia, given the fact that they don't fit in with Australian Design Rules classifications laid out by the government. Our US team, however, decided to go hands-on with this awesome bit of tech.

Robert Gomez Hernandez, the Creative Director at Skully, invited me to a parking lot in Playa Del Rey and told me to bring a few co-workers to examine their new Skully AR-1. "AR" stands for Augmented Reality.

Hands On With The World's First HUD Motorcycle Helmet

The dramatic lines and rear fin are sure to catch your eye initially, but it's not until putting it on do you realise how unique this helmet is.

Hands On With The World's First HUD Motorcycle Helmet

Safety is the ultimate goal of the Skully, and the key aspect of the HUD is the rear view camera. Any motorcycle rider will know how limited our side mirrors are. Often, they show only elbows while requiring a rider to move his head and change his focal distance to view them. With Skully, mirrors are no longer a necessity. Your bike is now narrower, making splitting lanes that much easier. With the helmet on, you are able to see someone standing as close as two feet behind you and three feet to either side. This is all visible without moving your head!

Hands On With The World's First HUD Motorcycle Helmet

These three little holes in the bottom are exhaust vents, pulling cool air through the helmet.

Hands On With The World's First HUD Motorcycle Helmet

http://indefinitelywild.gizmodo.com/everything-you...

Hands On With The World's First HUD Motorcycle Helmet

The rear view camera is also great for playing shadow puppets at stop lights.

The pictures do not do the experience justice.

Hands On With The World's First HUD Motorcycle Helmet

While advertised mostly for the street, the applications of a rear view camera are endless. Think about racing and being able to tell which rider is trying to dive inside from behind you to steal your line. Or, how about a father taking his kids for a ride in the sand dunes or forest trails and not having to look back every five seconds to make sure they are still following. http://indefinitelywild.gizmodo.com/what-harley-da...

I can personally vouch that as a leader of a group ride, this will be invaluable. How about the teenager sipping her Starbucks while Snapchatting her bestie right before she plows in to you while stopped at a light? With the rear view camera, these situations will be drastically different. Better vision informs better decision making.

Hands On With The World's First HUD Motorcycle Helmet

The idea of riding at night and having a bright screen directly in front of your eye may not sound like the best idea, but the rear view camera can be used as an ambient light sensor to automatically adjust the brightness of the HUD.

Hands On With The World's First HUD Motorcycle Helmet

Having Bluetooth connectivity will allow the helmet to connect to your smartphone and display calls, navigation, and a host of other features. These were not actively available in this first prototype, but the idea is there. Adding a Bluetooth transceiver to your modern bike will allow the helmet to read all sorts of data — revs, fuel levels, etc — and display the relevant info right to your eyes. All that's controlled by voice too, leaving you free of distractions as you focus on operating the motorcycle.

These photos do not really capture the in person perception. The in-person experience of the HUD looks like a floating transparent rectangle out in front of your line of sight.

Hands On With The World's First HUD Motorcycle Helmet

The display itself is translucent. When off, you can look right through it as if it were not even there. When displaying the rear view camera, or other features like navigation, transparency is maintained allowing the rider to have an unobstructed view of the road ahead. In the top GIF, you can see the display in between the 2 layers of glass.

Hands On With The World's First HUD Motorcycle Helmet

While not openly advertised, one of the most awesome features was the electrochromic shield. With the push of a button on the rider's left side, the shield would instantly go from clear to a convenient tint. This is awesome for the most obvious reason of not having to carry two shields to deal with variable lighting conditions. The second benefit, to this fighter pilot like tinting, is the increased visibility of the HUD.

Hands On With The World's First HUD Motorcycle Helmet

Skully claims a nine hour battery life, which should last for more than a week of average commuter use, or for an all day ride. http://indefinitelywild.gizmodo.com/honda-just-ann...

While not perfect, this initial prototype is miles ahead of what I had expected. There were no loose wires to be found, only a small piece of duct tape, but what prototype is not complete without its duct tape? Skully is planning to go through two more iterations of prototypes as they get closer to production, which may begin as early as next year, but details about this are hard for the startup company to nail down.

Hands On With The World's First HUD Motorcycle Helmet

My only gripe with the display was the visibility in a high contrast situation. With the bright blue sky above and dark long shadows below, it was difficult to make out what was right behind me at first. As with most things, practice will make perfect, and I am sure the more you use it, the more in tune you will be with the display.

Due to insurance liabilities and other red tape, we were not allowed to ride with it on. Robert nearly tackled me when I reached for the starter button on my bike. This is probably a good thing, because I will admit that using it for the first time was taking most of my attention. I am looking forward to the next iterations of the helmet and actually being able to ride with it on.

Photos: Corey Hass

IndefinitelyWild is a new publication about adventure travel in the outdoors, the vehicles and gear that get us there and the people we meet along the way. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Comments

    This seems to be a particularly dangerous thing to have inside your helmet. You can easily lose track of things now just by glancing around (scenery, speedo etc), so having a little display as well sounds like a really bad idea.

    While it's great that it senses the ambient light around you, the issue is more that at 100km +, taking the time to refocus your eyes on a little screen inches from your face is not the smartest idea, especially if it's also displaying complex information (like a map etc). I mean, glancing down at the speedo is already something that needs to be well-timed, but having to refocus on a little screen inches from your face sounds like a crash just waiting to happen.

    The rear-view camera idea is not half bad, but it's not like side mirrors are completely useless. If yours are really that bad, have you thought of adjusting them? As for getting hit by a car from behind, I doubt that these will be that useful in that situation, given that you'd have to be watching constantly, and still have little time to really react in any meaningful way.

    And I don't really like the helmet design either. The dramatic lines and rear fin didn't catch my eye. It looks a bit bulky (might be to house the electronics).

      what about in a car? you do way more in a car, change radio stations, maps ect.
      im not a bike rider, but if glancing at your speedo needs to be timed, i think you are moving way to fast or cant operate a bike very well.

        The problem is, on a bike with a helmet on you have a very limited field of view.
        The seating position also affects what you can see. On my old bike for example (and all others I've riden), it was impossible to see the speedo without tilting my head down, essentially minimising the ability to see ahead.
        In my car however, I can see the entire dash and windscreen without moving my head what so ever.
        In fact, if you watch the video you can clearly see he can't see his speedo without tilting his head down for the most part, and yet he's in one of the most laid back seating positions you can get on a bike.

        Firstly, a car has much more stability than a bike. In the few seconds it can take to read a speedo, something can move into your path, and you have much less of a buffer. The same is true in a car, but a car has a) more braking power and b) more stability in sudden movements (not to mention more physical protection for the driver in the event of a crash).
        Secondly, in a car the speedo is further away than this proposed bike helmet screen, meaning that it takes less time to focus your eyes (or none at all depending on the dash of your car). As the speedo on my motorcycle is placed on the fuel tank (as many are), it takes a second or two to look down at it and then back up again. In traffic or cornering, this is/can be potentially dangerous, and I've learned to time my speed checks to accommodate this.
        Third, changing radio stations, using maps etc in a moving car is or can be potentially dangerous, so that's actually a pretty poor argument to make.
        Fourth, even though you aren't a rider, you really don't have any concept of how to ride a motorcycle (nor seem to drive a car safely either).

        Last edited 28/07/14 12:57 pm

          I agree but I'd argue the breaking distance.

            The breaking distance, yeah. A car has a lot more weight to slow down. I was thinking more along the lines of in an emergency I'd probably rather have to break suddenly in a car than on a bike in terms of physical safety.

              chompers is cleary worried about things that low skilled riders would be, I mean seriously?

        Your not a bike rider and your offering advice on how to ride a bike, let me assume your the kind of motorist that makes the road very dangerous for us riders ! Because you are playing with your radio and gps ! Please only comment when you at least have an idea what your talking about! You clearly don't !

      Does it require you to refocus? I remember the was a car, can't remember which one, was a small one. It didn't have a speedo in the dash like a normal car. It had it more towards the center line and projected it into your field of view. I remember that the first time I drove it I was very disoriented but I quickly got used to it and not having to take my eyes off the road, was really good. I didn't even have to change my focus. I could still be focused on the car in front and be aware of what my speed was.

      On a different note, when are they going to have AR systems for cars? You know, where they project things like the road shoulder/kerb, center line as well as obstructions?

        Driving a car is considerably different to riding a motorcycle in many ways.

        My motorcycle has (as do a lot of models) the speedo on the fuel tank. In order to see what my speed is, I have to lower my head and take my eyes off the road. Because I've been looking about 5 seconds ahead onto the road, yes, it requires me to refocus (or else I wouldn't be able to read the speedo). Then, when I lift my eyes back up to the road, I have to refocus again. At high speeds (ie: 100km +) in certain conditions, this could be dangerous unless you have experience.

        This little screen would be even worse, as it is much closer to your eyes, which means that you really couldn't focus on it while also maintaining vision of the road ahead of you. Try focusing your eyes on your hand at about 10cm from your face offset to the right like the pictures, read something on your hand and tell me if you could safely operate a vehicle at (relatively) high speeds.

          have you ever used those fpv goggles or anything like that? the image actually looks further away than physically where it is so you can focus on it. so maybe you dont have to struggle to look at it

            What are you talking about? FPV goggles?? FPV goggles might be great for flying a remote control plane, but this helmet isn't a pair of FPV goggles.

            Last edited 29/07/14 12:25 pm

              oh sorry your right it is a helmet.......
              how silly of me

      I'm guessing you didn't read this part then...

      "These photos do not really capture the in person perception. The in-person experience of the HUD looks like a floating transparent rectangle out in front of your line of sight."

      When I'm stopped at lights I watch my mirrors to make sure the car behind me is actually going to stop. The rear view camera in this case would be very helpful.

        And I'm guessing that you didn't read my post, especially the part where I addressed the rear camera...

          I definitely read your comment addressing the rear view camera, hence why I wrote a comment directly about it.

            Then it's obvious that you didn't understand it.

      you can see in the photos you don't need to refocus. it will appear sharp as your eye scans whereas with the speedo on the bike, you do need to refocus and move your head.

        You can tell from a photo that there's no difference between focusing your eyes tens of metres ahead on the road and focusing on a tiny screen inches from your face? If you're referring to photos #8, #9 and #11, you do realise that the camera image isn't really representing what it would be like, don't you?

          actually you'll find when the camera takes a photo focused at where the screen is sitting, the picture is just a blur. when the photo is focused well in front of the motorbike, the helmet is blurry and the screen is sharp. that's how focus works ;)

            That's actually not how focus works in terms of your eyes and reading information. It's a combination of your eyes adjusting to the distance as well as the diversion of attention. Even if they're able to 'project' the screen's image so that it appears to be further away, you still have to actually shift your eyes and focus on the screen to be able to read it and process it. That movement takes your attention away from the road for longer and more intensively than simply glancing down at the large tank mounted speed dial for instance.

              ok so you're talking about taking attention away from riding, not focus. having a rear view mirror, speedo in the little window etc means you don't have to move your eyes away from where you're going. if we're talking about focus, put your left hand level with the left side of the computer screen. now read some text on the left side of your screen. you can see your hand with your peripheral vision quite clearly and detect movement etc quite well. now leave your left hand there and bring your right hand 10cm from your face. focus on your right hand and see how blurry the left hand is. also switch focus between your left and right hand. compare this with the left hand and the text on the screen that is on the same focal plane. that's the difference between looking down at your speedo and using this thing. you're effectively blind for a split second. I would feel good about riding with one of these helmets.

                I am talking about both. Having to switch your eyes from one point to another still involves focus, unless the points are at the same (or close enough) distance (at which point it becomes an attention issue). From the photos provided, I see no way that this screen could do that. Even the photo where everything is in focus still requires you to actively 'focus' your eyes on the little screen to the exclusion of the road (by virtue of it being much smaller, much closer, off to one side and having to actually read/process small text/maps etc).

                In photo #10 for example, it seems to me that there is no way you could "scan" and yet still read the tiny screen. It also looks like the guy is tilting his head back to see the screen better which is even worse.

                In photo #11, there's actually a fair bit of data on that little screen. It looks like it's got someone behind him (a rear camera), plus maybe a speed reading and other info. That's a lot of elements to take away your attention at high speed. At standstill (traffic lights etc), it could be quite handy however, as it doesn't require any change of focus or attention.

                  Oh Chompers! You're such a hater. Have you worn one? By your comments I'd say no.
                  I have worn a military helmet with HUD and it is fantastic! With all the info that can be displayed is an awesome idea. You won't take your eyes of the road and most bikes don't have speedo on fuel tank, just the old timers with cruisers! You probably can't see your speedo without moving your head cause your belly is in the way!
                  It will take a bit of practice and getting use to, but you won't have to take your eyes off the road with this HUD which is fantastic.

                  @keg I can't reply directly to you, so I'll do it here:

                  Firstly, no, I haven't used one (as they're not available yet - seems obvious). Have you worn one?

                  Secondly, there are a lot of cruisers on the road (as well as more upright style bikes), and regardless of belly size (thanks for the immature and incorrect insult), the speedo does require a head nod to see it. Even riding a sports bike requires a movement of the eyes to read the speedo (although those models are easier to do it on).

                  Third, this is not a "military helmet", and from the pictures above, you obviously do have to take your eyes off the road to read/see it.

      Hi Chompers,

      I'd like to preface my argument by stating that safety should never be sacrificed for the sake of gadgetry. But IMO, this type of wearable tech can increase safety by providing much needed data to the rider.

      It will be difficult to explain my point of view to those of you who have not had experience riding motorcycles/dirt bikes/snowmobiles/etc., but I'll try.

      The first thing to consider is the operator state of mind. On a motorcycle, in contrast to car and truck operation, the driver is required to be tuned-in to his environment. Not only does he need to be aware of his posture and position on the bike, but his focus needs to be actively searching for danger around him. In a car, a person should exhibit the same focus, but because we have space to move around and phones/radio/passengers to tempt us, unfortunately, this concentration is often lost. The operation of a motorcycle is very different from that of a four-wheel vehicle and once that is understood, we can look a little deeper.

      We need to understand the interface of the helmet in order to determine if the display is distracting. Because we won't be able to get our hands on Skully's helmet until may, (similar timeframe for their competitors) we'll have to speak about similar technologies and the low tech alternatives. The optical systems used by Skully, Fusar, Nuviz, Livemap and others is similar to that already used in military applications. (see Optinvent's description http://optinvent.com/HUD-HMD-benchmark) The key selling point for these near-eye displays is their ability to overlay an image that does not require the viewer to refocus. This means that you will be able to read your telemetric data while reading the sign down the road -- no refocus and no delay necessary.

      The alternative, as you mentioned, is to check the mirrors and speedometer with quick glances. This option often requires the driver to move his head away from his ideal view, which is a no no. I'm not too happy with Skully's decision to project the image to the bottom right of the field of view for the same reason. This deviation may contribute to the fact that although motorcycles account for only 3% of registered vehicles on the road, they represent 14% all traffic fatalities. (see http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811765.pdf) If there is a display that can provide a rear view, speed, direction, navigation in an easy-to-access display that doesn't require refocus, I would pay a large amount of money. I'm hopeful to see what Fusar puts out in the next year.

      -craybin

        What safety increasing data is this helmet going to provide that my motorcycle (mirrors, speedo etc) currently doesn't?

    This'd be much better if the information was projected onto the visor itself.

      Thats what I think of when I see HUD. This is just a small screen

    The system would need to be incorporated into the helmet and not protruding like that
    For a start it's distracting and secondly in an accident it could get imprinted into your face

    Ooops didn't read articles properly.
    Nothing to see here.

    Last edited 28/07/14 4:33 pm

    LOL Hud on a bike Yay Gimme gimme,this could be a good thing except for.......
    Motorcyclists need to have good spatial awareness or you're likely going to miss things. Motorcyclists also need to scan properly , no excuses for not scanning car drivers don't but they aren't likely to be killed by a pedestrian or forgetting to check mirror while stopping for that "SMIDSY" driver misjudging distance. as for the speedo check only when you need to, If you lose control of direction from that quick glance at the needle angle you will likely have problems with the "blinker mirror blindspot" check and keeping it straight or tracking a corner line properly.

    TL:DR___If you have problems with a speedo check or mirror check getting lost etc maybe just drive a car.

    "Australian Editor’s Note: Motorcycle helmets like the Skully are technically illegal in Australia, given the fact that they don’t fit in with Australian Design Rules classifications laid out by the government."

    Can someone please elaborate on this statement?

      Well, the immediate downside is that if you're in an accident, most (if not all I'd think) Australian insurers won't cover you if you have a non-approved helmet on (or off as the case may be).

    Pre-orders are live. http://igg.me/at/skully/x/8465808

    Wow.
    So many opinions, so few with a clue.
    Riding is not driving. It is a totally different beast. As mentioned you need to be hyper vigilant or you will die/wish you had.

    If you ride a bike and can't tell how fast you're going without taking your eyes from the road and focusing on the speedo then you need to learn how to do that before it kills you.
    Two words. Peripheral vision.
    .... and speed sense. Okay that's five words. Peripheral vision and speed sense.
    ..... and an almost fanatical devotion to the pope.
    But seriously. If they make a helmet with a HUD that can give you revs and speed, then it will be easier to learn how to ride till you get good enough to judge it on your own.

    Every bike rider knows that wing mirrors give you a great view of your elbows and maybe what's in lanes beside you but can't tell you what's behind you.
    There is a blindspot directly behind you that this helmet seeks to eliminate. Kudos to them for developing it, not brickbats.

    Something most of you missed. Version 1 people. What have we learned about version 1? .........

    @craybin Most everything sold in Australia needs to be submitted for testing to ensure it meets the relevant Australian design specifications. I'm assuming that being an American company that this helmet hasn't gone through that process yet so technically it's not legally a helmet.
    /craybin

    As for Bluetooth linking to a phone .... I'm not so sure about this. You don't need music/incoming calls/or maps to distract you when you ride (but I'm sure there will be temps who think they do).
    I can imagine that having your phone TELL you directions could work quite well but trying to make sense of a map while riding, getting a call or message notification at the wrong moment or zoning out to your favourite track is just asking for trouble in a situation that already has enough (with everyone else trying to kill you and all).

    hi there,what an awesome helmet,i would just love to try it out,i have been reading some of the comments,seems a lot of negativity out there,i would only guess that the features can be turned on and off and the rider can select what he wants to see,ive ridden bikes for 40 odd years and still ride,i can only benefits with this helmet,it looks a similar set up to what fighter plane pilots use and they dont have problems,i hope these helmets come to australia soon,thats if they arnt here already
    hope this helps

    Mark J

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