Heads up: the world’s most advanced helmet

4 mins read

Biking technology has lagged behind in recent years, but the new Skully AR-1 helmet aims to change all that, says Jeremy White. 

or many years I commuted to work on a 125cc moped. Not as glamorous as a Harley-Davidson, I admit, nor as technologically advanced and groundbreaking as the supreme new Mission electric superbikes (if you can handle the acceleration, and are accomplished enough, I urge you to reserve a limited edition RS model – 0-60mph in less than three seconds, top speed 150mph, range 140 miles – a snip at $75,000). However, I loved my Piaggio and the traffic-defying freedom it afforded my every Monday to Friday.

One thing that struck me while in the saddle, though, was how cut off from the world one was with the helmet firmly in place, particularly with the addition of proper gloves (a must) and the lack of access to any phones or other useful devices. Indeed, the lack of technology in general available to bikers even now is staggering. Car drivers are increasingly bombarded with tech in the automobile cockpit, but those who prefer two wheels to four are left out in the cold. We don’t even get a rear-view mirror and so have to resort to turning round and physically looking behind us (at speed, in traffic) to make sure the coast is clear to change lanes.

Well, thankfully, all this is about to change. The Skully AR-1 helmet has been a crowd-funding smash. Over a two-month campaign to get development supported by enthusiasts, by 9 October it had raised nearly $2.5million, having only wanted to initially secure $250,000. What’s so special about the Skully? Many things, but chiefly it has a rear-view camera mounted on the back that beams 180-degree live footage of what’s behind the rider to a heads-up display on the visor at the front.

Sensors and microprocessors in the helmet also allow the wearer to enjoy turn-by-turn GPS navigation, as well as voice control and, naturally, smartphone pairing so that one can take calls and select and listen to music all without the need to stop en route. The 1.8kg Skully also supports helmet-to-helmet communications.

Another superb innovation is the AR-1’s E-Tint visor that uses an electrochromatic liquid crystal technology originally created for the military, which lets the rider switch the visor between tinted and un-tinted at the push of a button. For any biker who has started a journey on a murky day to then see the clouds part to reveal bright sunshine, this feature is a joyous addition. The whole system runs on two batteries: one for the visor to control the E-Tint technology; and a helmet battery used by the rest of the system. The E-Tint battery lasts for 20 hours in constant use, while the AR-1 main power has a nine-hour charge before it needs plugging in.

If you’re going to be on a longer ride than that (in which case you must be a true motorbike maniac), you can plug in an external power source and charge while you ride. It might have taken a while to catch up, but now helmet technology is clearly streaking ahead into the future.

The Skully AR-1 is priced $1,499 and available in S-XXL sizes, will come in matt black or gloss white and is scheduled for release in June 2015.


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