Is The iC-R The Best Smart Helmet Yet?

We’ve seen a lot of hype surrounding the next generation of motorcycle helmets. The likes of SKULLY and Nuviz had gotten us excited, only to end up disappointing with delayed launches and the seeming inevitability of vaporware. But now there’s a new kid on the block and the iC-R could actually be the best of the bunch.

The iC-R (Intelligent Cranium) helmet packs a lot of the same technology that these other products do, but what we like most about it is that it actually seems to make an effort to make these features part of improving rider safety instead of just being there for the sake of it. It includes the usual tricks such as HUD navigation, weather updates and so forth but there’s a few really nice additions that are “Why didn’t they think of that before?” ideas.

Firstly is the rear camera. Although it’s actually two rear cameras which give a total field of view of 210° allowing the rider to see a wider view of what is behind him or her; completely removing the need for the rider to take his or her eyes off the road ahead. It almost eliminates all blind spots.

The greatest innovation however is what is described as interior notification lighting. There are two LED lights (amber & red) that the rider will see at the edge of their vision to act as a warning of cars coming behind from behind. The LED lighting system works in tandem with a warning sound and/or vibration inside the helmet. The soft amber color means “Warning”; which will blink in 2 second intervals when a vehicle gets within 420 ft. This feature is also accompanied by a warning sound and/or vibration (optional) inside the helmet. The red color means “Danger”; which will blink in 1 second intervals when a vehicle gets within 240 ft. Great for every rider who fears being taken out from behind.

There’s a few other unique features as well, including a solar panel on top of the helmet to assist with charging, an open SDK (for custom mobile application development) and an “E-tint” that allows you to turn your visors tint on or off at the flick of a button.

If this comes to fruition, it seems to be the most compelling smart helmet offering so far. If you’re interested in supporting the development of the iC-R, head to the Indiegogo funding page.

Is The Dream of Motorcycle HUDs fading?

Motorcycle HUDs incorporated into helmets promised to bring the next generation of technology to riders. Just nine months ago, we took a look at the present and future of Motorcycle HUDs and it’s around now that we should have been reviewing these new products. Instead, all three competing products are either delayed or worse. So is the dream of Motorcycle HUD’s turning into just that – a dream?

The biggest name in Motorcycle HUD’s is the Skully AR-1 which unlike the competition, incorporates the HUD into a specially made helmet. After previewing the helmet for some time, Skully launched a crowdfunding campaign to gauge interest in the product. It was a huge success with Skully raising $2.4 million on Indiegogo.

With confirmation of demand, Skully then secured over $11 million in funding from the likes of Intel Capital and Techstars. Delivery was to be next month. That has now been pushed back until December 2015 at the earliest – and without any official announcement from Skully. We first heard of the delay when a reader messaged our site, letting us know that the pre-order delivery date as listed on their webpage had changed to the end of year.

Skully AR-1 Integrated Motorcycle Heads Up Display

As it currently stands, it’s believed that not a single motorcycle journalist has had access to the helmet to use in a live situation – nor even seen a production model. If that’s true, it makes the likelihood of a finished and certified product unlikely by the end of the year. Even perhaps more worrying is that Skully has supposedly contracted a budget Chinese manufacturer to build the actual helmets – perhaps not the best news to hear given the asking price of $1,500.

But Skully is by no means the only company to fail to deliver on its promises. Nuviz and their Ride:HUD have perhaps had an even more disappointing result. Nuviz seemed quite promising – not only was their product a more realistic offering (it was a device that would be attached to any helmet, rather than an incorporated system), it was backed by a company with some actual history.

The Nuviz company is actually a joint venture between HOLOEYE Photonics and APX Labs.  HOLOEYE designs and develops heads up displays for applications such as air force pilots and more recently, soldiers on the ground.  They’ve been in business since 1998.  APX Labs do equally impressive work but focus more on the software side of things, but again with application to heads up displays.


Yet, late last year, Nuviz refunded all their Kickstarter backers, with the reasoning being that they were encountering design & production delays. A single post appeared on their Facebook page just a fortnight ago with the following:

We simply wanted to let you all know that, yes, we are more alive than ever and we won’t stop until we achieved the very best Head-Up Display solution for your motorcycle helmet. Going forward, our focus will be on product development and delivering you the ultimate user experience. We look forward to taking you along on this exciting ride and really appreciate your continued support!

While the door is still open, it’s fair to say that the Nuviz RIDE:Hud is currently vaporware.

As it stands, the only Motorcycle HUD you can buy is the Bike-HUD, which has now been available for a number of years. We’ve voiced our issues with the design of the Bike-HUD previously and thankfully, a second generation system is underway – the Bike-HUD Adventure. Although they experienced a failed Kickstarter campaign to help with funding the new model, we understand that the company is still attempting to get the product to market before the end of the year.

BikeHUD Adventure

All of this shows how difficult a technology this is to get to market. But it also illustrates the dangers of over promising and under delivering. Even if the Skully AR-1 does come to market, we have serious doubts of the viability of a $1,500 helmet. It will take many, many years for that price to come down to a level people are willing to pay at a mass market level.

But perhaps an even bigger indication as to the viability of these products is the fact that not a single established helmet manufacturer has shown an interest in Motorcycle HUD’s. Bell, Arai, Shoei and so forth with their many millions of dollars and established history in motorcycle helmet manufacture have not given any indication they are building, let alone designing heads-up displays for motorcycles.

That either means that there’s no profit in it or that there’s no real advantage in such devices. And unfortunately for now, it’s had to prove them wrong with actual hardware.


BikeHUD Planning Second Generation Motorcycle Heads-Up Display

A number of months ago we had a look at the future of motorcycle heads-up displays, where we looked at three different approaches to the idea of displaying information directly into a riders field of view. And while the BIKEHUD in our opinion definitely had some issues with regards to practicality, it was the only product out of the three that you could actually purchase and use today. The Skully AR-1 helmet and NUVIZ Ride:HUD are both not to be actually released until sometime in 2015.

BIKESYSTEMS is so far in front of the market that they’re now looking to release their second generation product by August 2015 with a major overhaul of the BIKEHUD to be called the BIKEHUD ADVENTURE (for some reason, BIKESYSTEMS, the creators of BIKEHUD like capital letters. We’ll refer to the products in nicer letters for the rest of the article).

Here’s a quick recap of the existing BikeHUD:

  • Fits onto any helmet – full or open face.
  • Displays GPS, Speed, Gear and Speed Camera locations
  • Ability to display race track data (lap, split, etc)
  • Let’s you know if your indicators are on
  • iPod connectivity

These were all great features, but our issue with the BikeHUD was that it was somewhat cumbersome. A control unit is fitted to the bike, which in turn had to be connected by a cable to the display unit every time you go for a ride. The actual display also wasn’t a true HUD – the display was a screen and wasn’t transparent that in our opinion wasn’t ideal.

The proposed BikeHUD Adventure fixes both of these and more.

Firstly, it’s now wireless. No more attaching a cable every time you ride (although you can connect a cable to the on board unit to charge on the go – best of both words). Secondly it’s now a true HUD with an image reflected onto a transparent screen. Bikesystems proposes a few tiers of the model and the details of them are below:

BIKEHUD ADVENTURE: wireless in-helmet Head-Up Display monocle. Fits in your current helmet. Shows speed, GPS navigation, safety cameras, and interfaces with your smart phone to play music and show who’s calling you.

BIKEHUD ADVENTURE PLUS: in-helmet monocle with BIKEHUB on-bike controller. This is the BIKEHUD ADVENTURE monocle with BIKEHUB controller fitted on your bike. It does everything the standalone BIKEHUD ADVENTURE does and:

  • Adds high frequency speed display (updates up to 100 times each second)
  • Shows extra info in the HUD monocle: gear selected, engine revs, indicators. Comes with a handlebar-mounted keypad. o Can take calls from your smartphone.

BIKEHUD ADVENTURE VISION: monocle, BIKEHUB controller and BIKEVISION rear and forward facing cameras. Does everything the BIKEHUD ADVENTURE PLUS does with the addition of:

  • forward and rear facing bike-mounted cameras giving wide angle vision and eliminating blind spots. The cameras are always ready to capture images as they are powered by the BIKEHUB controller (no need to worry about charging batteries) and they do not need to be fitted each time you ride – unlike other commercially available cameras.

A cool new features includes is called the BikeHUD Pitlane which provides one-way communication via a smartphone from the pits/support teams to the racer. Messages you could display include:

  • STOP. Race abandoned due to accident/ hazard on track etc
  • Return to pits either now or countdown in X laps
  • You are X many seconds in front take it easy
  • You are about to be overtaken speed up
  • You are X seconds behind the leader go for it

There’s a bunch of other really impressive features that are set to be included in the new BikeHUD Adventure which are all available to read the the Kickstarter page for the project. You can get yourself a BikeHUD Adventure for £397 on the Kickstarter and help support it’s development.

While we were somewhat critical of the first iteration of this product we’re really, really impressed with what Dave Vout and the team at Bikesystems has proposed. Unlike Skully and NUVIZ, Bikesystems has actually got the runs on the board with a proven product and the feature set surpasses even what those proposed products will have.


Heads Up – A Look at Present and Future Motorcycle HUDs

Heads up displays have been around for decades.  They’ve been in use by the military for over 60 years and commercial aviation for around 30 years. Back in 1988 you could actually buy an Oldsmobile with one. But it’s only in recent years that they’ve become more commonplace in the mass consumer market, slowly trickling down from luxury cars like BMW and Mercedes, with Mazda introducing it in all but the lowest spec of their new Mazda 3.

Given a rider needs to have their attention looking at the road as much as possible, a HUD seems to make sense for motorcycles.  Being able to know your speed in suburban areas or getting directions via GPS on a HUD seems much safer than looking continuously down at your instrument cluster. We’ve therefore taken a look at three options that each take a different approach but are all specifically made for motorcycle riders.

The Bike-HUD

The first motorcycle HUD we’ll look at is unique in that it’s already available to purchase.  No future promises, no relying on crowd funding to bring it to production.  You can go to their website and buy it today.  It’s also not a true HUD either, but it’s the closest thing you can currently get so we felt it deserved a closer look.

The Bike-HUD is actually the brainchild and creation of one man, Dave Vout from England.  His original goal was to develop something to help him better see behind him and the idea of a HUD with rear view camera was born.  Ironically, the Bike-HUD ended up not offering any rear view capabilities but may do some with an upgrade module in the future.

As stated, it’s not a true HUD in that you don’t see the information displayed on a transparent screen.  Instead, it’s in effect a small screen that sits at the bottom left or right of the rider’s visor and the company prefers to use the term near eye display.  It is capable of showing the rider their speed, gear, a tachometer plus even if your indicators are on.  It has a track mode that shows lap and split times and a countdown timer for timed sessions.  An app is also available that provides basic turn by turn navigation when coupled to an iPhone.

This is all very impressive from a single man with a dream and passion.  But unfortunately that shows through in other areas. Firstly is how it’s installed. In addition to the rather cumbersome method in which the unit is attached inside the helmet, you also have to place the actual computer controller unit for the display somewhere on your bike. That computer then has to be connected via cord to the display.  Yuck.

Gearing up for a ride is already a time consuming process and I’m not sure if I like the idea of having to attach/put on another piece of gear every ride, let alone finding a place to store the cable when not in use.  On the other hand, it does eliminate the need for recharging batteries. I’m also not totally enamored with the idea of a large (albeit rounded) object sitting within my helmet which though unlikely, could come loose in a crash.

In comparison to the Skully AR-1 and NUVIZ below, the Bike-HUD already looks a bit like yesterday’s technology.  It doesn’t have the great looking display the other two promise to have nor the sleek and futuristic look of them.  But the Bike-HUD is already here and there’s no guarantee those other products will become a reality.  And given this was all started by just one guy, we’re pretty impressed. Price is approximately $485.

Skully AR-1

The AR-1 by Skully Helmets is different to the two other systems looked at here as the motorcycle HUD has been integrated with the helmet itself.  So in fact, you’re purchasing a helmet that comes with a HUD and not a HUD that you attach to any helmet you own.  That’s both good and bad.

Good because it should mean the HUD is perfectly calibrated for the rider.  It also means there’s an inbuilt rear vision camera that pipes the footage to the HUD which could be a nice safety feature.  Voice commands control the device, allowing you to use the GPS, make telephone calls, play music and so on without touching any controls.  Whether all that is a good thing for a rider to be able to do is probably another topic.

Now, the bad.  First is the price.  When it goes on sale in May 2015 it will retail for $1,500.  No doubt that will come down over time but that’s a huge amount of money for something that:

  • Could get stolen
  • Might need to be replaced if you accidentally drop it
  • Would need to be replaced it receives any sort of impact in a crash
  • Would need to at the very least have all the internal lining replaced after 3-5 years to keep it safe to wear

Second is recharging.  The Skully AR-1 will supposedly offer 9 hours battery life though that sounds somewhat optimistic.  Even if it does, it means bringing your helmet inside the house or up the stairs of your apartment to charge alongside your mobile phone and laptop instead of perhaps leaving it in the garage or in your top box.  A detachable HUB wouldn’t be as cumbersome as this.

The other issue is how good is this thing in a crash?  Yes, it will be DOT and ECE approved, but that’s not really a high bar.  There are plenty of helmets that meet such standard that would receive 2 stars on the SHARP website.  What about wind noise?  Visor optics?  Comfort and aerodynamics?  To date, no details have emerged of how much this weighs and that is a huge factor in neck fatigue for motorcycle helmets. Would you really pay triple the price of a quality ARAI or BELL helmet from a company with zero history in manufacturing helmets or any motorcycle safety gear?


Of the three we’ve looked at here, this is the one I’m most interested in and to me shows the most practical promise.  The creators also seem to have a bit of pedigree behind them for such a device.  The NUVIZ company is actually a joint venture between HOLOEYE Photonics and APX Labs.  HOLOEYE designs and develops heads up displays for applications such as air force pilots and more recently, soldiers on the ground.  They’ve been in business since 1998.  APX Labs do equally impressive work but focus more on the software side of things, but again with application to heads up displays.  Check out some of their work here.

Like the Bike-HUD, the Nuviz motorcycle HUD can be used with any full face helmet though in a much more streamlined way.  It attaches with adhesive onto the chin bar, with the transparent display sitting above it and in your field of view.  No ugly and cumbersome brackets to attach.  And unlike the other two options, because it sits out the outside of your visor it would appear allow the rider to better look through the HUD rather than at it.

Features are similar to that of the Skully AR-1, with GPS navigation, weather updates, music and phone calls and two I really like that are telemetry and racing data (i.e. lap times and splits if you’re on a track day).  It has a built in camera so that you can record everything you see too.

There are some areas however that the Skully AR-1 does come on top.  Firstly, the NUVIZ doesn’t feature a rear view camera like the Skully AR-1, with NUVIZ stating that having a streaming video of what was behind you was distracting and ultimately dangerous for riders.  It will also not feature voice recognition, but instead the device will be controlled by a Bluetooth remote.  Battery life is approximately 4 hours, but thankfully you can replace the battery on the go.

Pricing hasn’t been confirmed yet, but it’s expected to be around the $500 mark.  Not cheap for a fancy GPS, but still cheaper than the Skully AR-1 even after including the cost of a brand new helmet.  No release date yet either but they’re currently touring the country with Harley-Davidson as part of the Project Livewire demonstration.

So hopefully within the next 12 months, all three products will be available no doubt more will come to market as the products mature and riders see the benefit of the technology. So who do you think will come out victorious in the battle of the Motorcycle HUD?