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Android motorcycle helmet/HUD gains funding

Aug 12, 2014 — by Eric Brown 11,010 views

Skully has achieved Indiegogo funding for an Android 4.4 based motorcycle helmet with a head-up display, GPS navigation, and a 180-degree rearview camera.

Last October, Skully Systems (then called Skully Helmets) unveiled its high-tech Skully P1 motorcycle helmet and launched a beta testing program. The P1 never reached market, but has been refined into an AR-1 model that was launched on Indiegogo on Aug. 10. The Skully AR-1 quickly blasted past its $250,000 Indiegogo flexible funding goals, and had surpassed $900,000 at publication time. Helmets are available starting at $1,399, with shipments due in May 2015.

Skully AR-1 in black (left) and white
(click images to enlarge)

There are few obvious differences from the somewhat ambiguous specs announced for the P1 last fall. Certain promised features such as an inset navigation display have only now become fully realized in the AR-1. The device similarly features a head-up display (HUD) in the lower right corner that displays the video feed from a rear-view camera with a near 180 degree viewing angle. The adjustable camera’s wide viewing angle is claimed to remove blind spots.

180-degree rearview image in HUD display
(click image to enlarge)

Unlike Google Glass, the device provides for an “optical infinity” view that “doesn’t require diopter adjustment,” according to Skully director of Software Rob Tow, responding to questions posted on a Skully forum page. This capability makes it easier to adjust from road to display views, says the company.

The transparent HUD display can toggle to one of two turn-by-turn, audio-enhanced navigation interfaces: a simplified version in which icons and notifications appear only when needed, and another more in-depth display. If supported by the motorcycle, the device will also display vehicle telemetry such as speed, gear, and tachometer data.


The Skully AR-01 provides access to streaming music and additional navigation data from a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connected smartphone, and voice controls let you receive or make phone calls hands free. Voice is presumably also the interface to the promised “Internet connectivity via smartphone,” although the details are unclear. According to Skully’s Tow, companion apps will be provided for iOS and Android platforms.

Skully AR-1 detail view
(click image to enlarge)

Few details were offered on internal specs, with some of them coming only via Tow’s forum response. The battery is said to last up to nine hours, and GPS is integrated in the helmet itself. The device is equipped with 2GB of storage, said Tow.

The “highly weather resistant” helmet is made of a “lightweight, aerodynamic” polycarbonate shell, says Skully Systems. The helmet is available in black and white, in sizes small through XXL. The DOT/ECE certified design features a quick-release for the chinstrap and visor, which is said to be resistant to the effects of fog, glare, or scratches. The foam padding and lining are claimed to reduce perspiration by 70 percent.

Skully AR-1 navigation
(click image to enlarge)

The helmet runs on Android 4.4, and beta users will receive an “open SDK” updated via OTA for designing custom apps. The Android build is heavily modified with both screen size and safety in mind, according to Skully’s Tow.

“You should not think of it as being Android as seen in a phone; it doesn’t run the same skin,” wrote Tow on the Skully forum page. “You instead should think of it as a variant of Linux, not Android per se. What counts is the device drivers, graphics rendering for our turn by turn directions and vehicle telemetry, etc. More nerdy things like communication over the I2C bus to the image processing module.”

Skully AR-1 on the road

A report last week from Road Track based on a hands-on — but not a road-test — demo, found a lot to like in what it calls the “most anticipated motorcycle helmet ever produced.” The helmet was surprisingly lightweight and comfortable, and the thumbnail sized display, which appears to be about the size of one’s outstretched hand, appeared to be just large enough to be readable without being distracting, said Road Track.

Judging from the interview with Skully creative lead Robert Gomez, the interface appears to be a work in progress. “We’ve been very careful to limit the amount of information that gets displayed,” Gomez told Road Track. “We’re not just throwing your computer or phone screen up on the HUD. We have to filter that information so it doesn’t affect your reaction time and how much you can process.”

Skully is already working on a new version that adds LED brake lighting on the back of the helmet, as well as a camera-based blind spot detection system, says the story. Other potential features include a GoPro-like a front-facing camera, and even a tiny wind turbine that would recharge the battery.

We would recommend adding Bluetooth communications between the helmets of two riders on the same bike, so the two riders could chat comfortably, and more importantly, so video from the passenger helmet’s rearview camera could be transmitted to the driver helmet’s HUD.

Beta testers testify on the Skully AR-1

Further information

The Skully AR-1 is available in Indiegogo funding packages starting at $1,399 through Sep. 9. More information may be found at the Skully AR-1 Indiegogo page and Skully Systems website.

(advertise here)

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4 responses to “Android motorcycle helmet/HUD gains funding”

  1. Larry Jansch says:

    No XXXL sized helmet? Thanks for yet another exclusion. Some of us have bigger body parts than the rest of you, you know. …

  2. Doug says:

    My question is – legal in California? Recently someone was ticketed for using Google Glass….even though she beat the ticket, VC Section 27602 Television prohibits driving with a television receiver, video monitor,…you get it. The law does have an exception – “A visual display used to enhance or supplement the driver’s view forward, behind, or to the sides of a motor vehicle for the purpose of maneuvering the vehicle.” But this will have much more to display than the rear view, so a tested legal position would help my buying decision.

  3. Rob says:

    Clearly this device is used “to enhance or supplement the driver’s view forward, behind, or to the sides”. And GPS displays are allowed. And modern cars have big displays. And heads up displays are allowed. I see no “reasonable” legal issue here.

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