You’ve seen the movies. Terminator was a war machine encased in living tissue; Robocop was living tissue encased in a computerized armor; and Predator was just a badass alien hunter with a vicious arsenal of high-tech weaponry. Besides blurring the line between living creature and machine, what all these movies had in common was that they showed early visions of what is now being termed augmented reality; a term Wikipedia defines as “a live or copy view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS navigation data.”
A real-life military HUD (mixed in with some fictional movie HUDs for good measure.)
Now, the technology to recreate that first-person, computer-aided view of the world is here, and motorcycle riders are among the first to have it commercially available. Read on to find out how the technology works, where you can find it, and how it will make riding more immersive than ever before.
Any video you’ve seen with a graphical overlay like speed, rpm, position on a track, etc. is “augmented reality,” and it’s typically done on a computer during the editing process. But now, modern day engineers are taking it one step further, showing it happen in real time by projecting images into the eye with tiny, see-through displays called HUDs.
What is a HUD?
This is an example of what a HUD would look like from the rider’s view (shown is the Nuviz modular device.)
HUD is an acronym for Heads-Up Display, which refers to any transparent display onto which information can be projected without the user having to look away from what they need to see. They were originally developed for aviators in the military, but they are finding increasing commercial use in the aviation and automobile industries.
In recent years, with the proliferation of tiny, feature packed devices like mobile phones and improvements in wireless technology, it is finally feasible to make HUD devices available in the commercial marketplace. Since motorcycle riders already wear helmets, and need to maintain attention to the road while operating various devices, they make the perfect customers for this emerging technology!
Nuviz Modular HUD Device
The Nuviz HUD device mounted onto a helmet.
An exploded view of the Nuviz HUD device.
Nuviz is a joint venture between a company that develops optical devices for military and aerospace uses, and a software and mobile device development firm. Engineers from the two companies with a passion for riding teamed up to create a product perfect for motorcycling; the result is the Nuviz HUD device. It was recently funded successfully on Kickstarter, with delivery of the first round expected this summer!
Nuviz HUD is a small device that mounts to the outside of any full-face motorcycle helmet, placing a small, transparent screen in the lower corner of the rider’s field of vision. It displays information like GPS navigation and telemetric data in real time, and can control devices like your phone and camera via Bluetooth. The tiny screen is focused about 30 feet out, so you can maintain your focus at distance while viewing it. Awesome!
BikeHUD Modular HUD Device
This is the BikeHUD modular device installed into a Shoei full-face helmet.
This is the view of the BikeHUD model from inside the helmet.
The BikeHUD is a device built by a UK company that also delivers data into the rider’s field of vision in real time, and like the Nuviz, it is also on a crowdfunding site in the UK called Seedrs. It connects directly to the bike via an onboard computer to display useful information in real time. It’s different from the Nuviz because, since it doesn’t project info onto a screen the user can see through, it’s not technically a “HUD” system, but unlike the Nuviz it mounts inside the visor of the helmet which reduces bulk and wind drag.
Skully AR-1 Helmet
The Skully AR-1 integrates a HUD, GPS, a rear-view camera, and hands-free control into a single package!
The Skully AR-1 is currently in the final phases of development, but once released it will certainly hold the title of being the most high-tech motorcycle helmet ever produced. It integrates onboard GPS, a rear-view camera, hands-free device control, and a true HUD display in an aggressive, futuristic proprietary helmet. The integrated rear-view camera is a unique feature as there doesn’t seem to be anything else like it on the market, and its massive 180 degree view allows riders to see when its safe to change lanes without turning around. The helmet runs an Android OS, and utilizes Bluetooth connectivity to connect users to their favorite smart phone or other devices.
A view from inside the Skully P-1.
While other manufacturers have focused on creating add-ons for attachment to existing helmets, Skully has put all their efforts into creating a single, integrated package. There are some downsides to this approach, however; helmet brand devotees would have to be convinced to switch to trust their heads to a new helmet in order to get the tech inside, and with so many high-tech features it will surely not come cheap (rumors are that it will be priced around $1200.) Then again, if you were to take a premium helmet, and add a HUD module, a GPS navigation device, and a rear-view camera system, the price would surely be much more than what Skully will be asking for the complete package.
It will be interesting to see the demand for this revolutionary helmet when it comes out, and it would be even more interesting if we could get our hands on one to product test! Expect to see the Skully available for retail sale later in 2014.
Do you like where in-helmet technology is headed? Would you be excited about using one of these futuristic devices, or do you think its just a fancy distraction? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!