August 13, 2014
Skully AR-1 Helmet: Expensive Toy, or Game Changer?
Technology like integrated HUD, rear-facing cameras, and on-board diagnostics are more within reach than ever with the cool new Skully helmet, the AR-1. But the question is, will people pay for it...and will it deliver?
The Skully AR-1 is, quite frankly, the most technologically advanced motorcycle helmet ever developed. The features integrated into this sharp, stealthy-looking black helmet read like specs off the navigation system of a fighter plane: heads-up display, rearview camera, and GPS navigation, all tied together by high-speed microprocessor. And this helmet isn't all work and no play; it also connects to wireless devices via Bluetooth, streams music, makes hands-free calls, and can even connect to the internet via Wi-Fi. It even has a visor that darkens and lightens at the push of a button!
That this helmet is revolutionary, there is no question; the Skully even has people without the slightest bit of interest in motorcycles talking. The internet has been humming with talk of the Skully since the long-awaited introduction of pre-ordering was opened up this week, with the tech and business press driving the buzz even more than the motorcycle press.
The Skully AR-1 in action on a California canyon road.
The Skully is so buzzworthy, in fact, that when preorders were made available on crowd funding site IndieGoGo this Monday morning, the project met its funding goal of $250,000 in an astonishing eight minutes. Even with an expected delivery date of May 2015, the Skully campaign has sold over $1,000,000.00 in pre-orders at the time of this writing. That's 4 times its original funding target – in only three days.
All of the press the Skully has received throughout the last year, combined with the astonishing number of pre-orders the company has received, indicates that the company probably has a bright future ahead of it.
However, it also indicates something else – that expectations for this product are going to be incredibly high.
Being that Skully is a startup company whose entire product line consists of one product - whose release is over half a year away - their success as an entire company is riding solely on the AR-1, and what consumers think of it once it gets into their hands.
Despite the helmet's undeniable coolness factor, and it's remarkable ability to generate buzz, Skully will undoubtedly have to contend with a few challenges once their product this the market. Their success will inevitably depend on their ability to overcome them.
For now, Skully appears to have a lock on the market for a product like this; there's simply nothing else like it out there. However, Skully's competition may not be from other products like the AR-1, but rather, from modular devices that give similar functionality with a lower entry cost, but are fitted to existing helmets. Communication systems, GPS, and products that link to mobile phones already exist for motorcycle riders, and HUD modules that add on to existing helmets are in development now (check out my article on HUD for motorcycles for more information.)
A simulated POV view of the Skully's HUD displaying real-time GPS information.
The fact the Skully is a fully integrated stand-alone helmet might actually be a turn-off to some riders. Motorcycle riders are familiar with motorcycle helmets as a critical piece of safety gear, and not as a device. Skully does promise a helmet completely uncompromising in terms of safety, and the AR-1 is both DOT and ECE approved, but the fact remains that it is the very first helmet from a young start-up company; riders may worry that Skully put the bulk of their effort into the technology in the helmet at the expense of the helmet itself.
In addition, helmets are a very personal choice for riders, who tend to be very brand loyal; comfort, fit, reputation, and style are important considerations to riders when choosing a helmet. The fact that the Skully only comes in one style and head shape could pose an additional challenge, and make modular add-ons an appealing alternative.
The Skully AR-1's strength is that it is a fully integrated system, so riders can buy this one device and get all the functionality they expect without having to fiddle with multiple add-on devices. But that strength is a double edged sword; it also means that, when something goes wrong with a Skully, the entire thing will likely have to be sent in for service. If the helmet is buggy, as many new tech products are, it could result in a lot of down time for a lot of early adopters.
A rear-view camera is integrated into the Skully, allowing you to see behind you without checking mirrors or turning your head.
Overall, there's no denying that a helmet like the Skully AR-1 is an exciting product. Heck, its even exciting to talk about – hence this article for our newsletter. But as we in the motorcycle world know, unfortunately the best or coolest product doesn't always win in the competitive marketplace. So much of what makes a successful business can be, at times, simply more funding, better marketing, or just plain good luck.
So when a product as game-changing, unique, and just plain cool as the Skully AR-1, it's exciting to see what the future holds for it - and where it leads in the motorcycle world as a whole.
Skully's founder and motorcycle rider, Marcus Weller, holding a Skully prototype.
How do you think the Skully will do when it hits the market? How will it change the helmet industry, or the motorcycle gadget industry, as a whole?