What to watch for in high-tech helmets
The past few years have proved to be a boon for integrated helmet technology, and visitors to the Dealer Expo in Indianapolis are likely to find a number of suppliers offering helmets utilizing the latest technology to help riders communicate, concentrate and increase comfort.
Bluetooth is a new technology using an ultra-low radio signal that allows different devices from different manufacturers to communicate to each other in close proximity on a shared wireless platform.
In December 2005, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) announced that approximately 9.5 million Bluetooth units were shipping per week, nearly double the 4.75 million units per week shipped in May.
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) is a privately held, not-for-profit trade association. While the Bluetooth SIG itself does not make, manufacture or sell Bluetooth enabled products, the Bluetooth word mark and logos are owned by the Bluetooth SIG and licensed out for use. SIG members drive the development of Bluetooth wireless technology, and implement and market the technology in their products varying from mobile phones to printers.
Working with SIG member Motorola, Italian helmet maker Momo Design revealed a Bluetooth helmet in 2004 and thus became one of the first companies to show such a product. Built on the design of Motorola’s popular HS810, the wireless helmet headset was mated to an open-face Momo helmet, but never became available in the United States.
Later in 2004, BMW Motorrad introduced the System V Helmet, a unit also not sold in the United States. Manufactured by fellow German Schuberth Helme GmbH — a company that brands its own Bluetooth-enabled helmet — the new System V Helmet is fitted with Bluetooth technology Schuberth has dubbed Bluesonic.
Completely integrated in the helmet and not vehicle-based, the Wireless Communication System (WCS) consists of two virtually invisible Array microphones in the forehead area, a digital signal processor (DSP) to filter interference and wind noise, a Bluetooth module, two speakers and an integrated set of batteries.
A control panel on the left side of the helmet supplies three buttons for on/off function, “pairing” to connect two devices, “multifunction” for connecting additional devices, and volume control.
Cardo Systems, Inc., a Pittsburgh-based developer and manufacturer of wireless Bluetooth devices for the consumer market, revealed its scala-rider Combo unit in the United States in late 2005.
The product bundles Cardo’s scala-rider headset with a new Bluetooth adapter, the BTA II, to allow wireless headset use with non-Bluetooth mobile phones.
Cardo designed the scala-rider so that cyclists can manage their phone calls by voice control without having to let go of their handlebars. The system also features an embedded sensor that automatically adjusts volume levels according to driving speed and ambient noise, making manual adjustment of volume virtually unnecessary.
The scala-rider system — headset and adapter — provides approximately eight hours of talk-time and a full week of standby time. Carrying a suggested retail price of $199.95, the unit can be self-installed within minutes to fit full- or open-faced helmets without adhesive.
The latest company to reveal a Bluetooth-enabled helmet is Bell Powersports, which signed an agreement to serve as the exclusive powersports supplier of Motorola’s Bluetooth helmet headsets in the United States.
“The marriage of Motorola’s mobile technologies and Bell’s leadership in the helmet market is something we’re very excited about,” said Bell Powersports Senior Marketing Manager Chris Sackett. “We feel the combination of our products gives the best cellular and two-way communications performance available on a motorcycle.”
The Bluetooth Helmet Headset HS830 includes a portable Bluetooth module and a helmet adaptor cover with built-in microphone and speaker that connects to any Bluetooth phone. The portable Bluetooth module can be removed from the helmet and used with the included hands-free pendant neckstrap, which has a built in earbud and microphone for off-the-bike communications. The Bluetooth module also supports full-duplex, two-way communication between rider and passenger, or rider and other nearby riders.
The HS830 is compatible with any Bluetooth 1.1 or 1.2 compatible mobile phone-virtually all Bluetooth mobile phones on the market - and its universal helmet adaptor makes it compatible with any motorcycle helmet.
Carrying a suggested retail price of $179, the unit provides up to six hours of talk time or 120 hours of standby from a single charge and can be recharged with the included charger or a compatible Motorola phone charger.
“I can tell you from my 3,000-mile test ride to Sturgis with this system that it works extremely well with a Motorola phone and Bell helmet,” said Sackett. “But it is equally capable with equipment from other manufacturers as well.”
“Motorola’s working on many different technologies to offer consumers the ability to stay in touch at all times, no matter where they go, or how they get there,” said Bruce Hawver, vice president and general manager, Companion Products, Motorola. “Our new wireless helmet headset is one of our first products that fit this category.”
Visit Cardo Systems, Inc. in Indianapolis at Booth No. 9813. See Bell’s Bluetooth Helmet Headset HS830 at Booth No. 1909.
Heads Up Displays
First introduced in military applications and then transferred to the automotive industry, Heads Up Displays (HUD) offer powersports enthusiasts a new way of viewing critical data without breaking concentration.
According to a report by the McLaughlin Consulting Group dated August 2004, personal head-mounted display sales are projected to grow from $75 million in 2004 to $1 billion in 2008.
The SportVue MC1 HUD is on the leading edge of a wave of new technology that has the potential to change the way powersports users acquire and benefit from information.
Developed with assistance from the Human Interface Technology (HIT) Laboratory at the University of Washington and marketed by Motion Research Corporation, an information display and monitoring solutions provider founded in 1993 by former racecar driver Dominic Dobson, SportVue is a lightweight helmet and visor-mounted HUD driven by a compact GPS transceiver attached to the rear of the helmet. The user sees a real-time display of speed, rpm, performance data and other critical information projected into the field of vision.
The system consists of a sending unit that’s about the size of a pack of cigarettes, a visor mounted display and a rear wheel speed sensor. The control unit has four wires: one is attached to a switched power source, one is grounded, one is plumbed into the motorcycle’s rpm sensor wire and the fourth wire is attached to the speed sensor. A magnet is attached to the motorcycle’s rear brake rotor or other suitable location, and the speed sensor is located so that it will read the magnet as it passes by the sensor.
The Sportvue helmet heads up display unit is located just out of the line of site, above either the right or left eye, depending upon the rider. The display shows speed and gear selection, and a bar graph across the top of the display indicates RPM.
A mounting bracket, which is provided, is designed to fit between the display unit and the plastic visor mounting clip. This bracket allows the display to slide up or down if necessary to bring the readout into the rider’s field of vision. The bracket then slips in to the mounting clip to hold the display unit in place on the visor.
“SportVue represents the first truly usable and affordable application of heads-up display technology for sports enthusiasts,” said Dr. Thomas Furness of the HIT Lab. “This is an exciting step forward in safety for riders of all types.”
"Knowing my lap time and gear shift points while maintaining my focus on my riding can be a big advantage at the track," says Motion Research founder and former racer Dominic Dobson. "The new SportVue Heads Up gives the rider back that focus, and makes riding on the street more fun."
With its first product barely on the market, Motion Research recently created an additional feature - a radar detection display, available in the SportVue MC2.
The SportVue MC1 has a suggested retail price of $249 and the new MC2 retails for $349. Visit Motion Research Corporation in Indianapolis at Booth No. 7201.
Lens manufacturers use photochromic coatings on eyewear to provide a tint that varies automatically in response to changing lighting conditions. However, as many know from personal experience, photochromic lenses respond slowly to changes in illumination, and the wearer cannot adjust the tint or control lens responsiveness.
Scientists from the AFRL Human Effectiveness Directorate worked with AlphaMicron, Inc., Kent, Ohio, to develop a variabletransmittance visor (VTV) based on a form of liquid-crystal technology.
Scientists have shown examples of the VTV and demonstrated how the visor’s tint color and light transmittance can be altered merely by turning a knob on a small control box containing a battery. The VTV’s switching speed takes only a few milliseconds. Adding a small photosensor to the VTV enables the tint to adjust automatically as lighting conditions change.
AlphaMicron is currently pursuing applications for the VTV technology. The company has developed prototype goggles based on the Army’s standard issue sand, wind, and dust goggles, as well as variable-transmittance sunglasses, motorcycle helmet visors and ski goggles.
A helmet visor typically does not allow adequate ventilation between the occupant and outside air temperature. As a result, it can fog up or become coated with condensation, especially during critical operations when respiration rate is high, such as motorcycling.
Sprays, wipes, inserts and even embedded wires have been available, but deliver varying degrees of success. Now, Honeywell, Freeport, Ill., through the use of its ITO (Indium Tin Oxide) transparent heating technology, has designed a helmet visor with selective heating zones and multi-axis curvature lamination.
Honeywell says its new technique uses printed silver or carbon bus bars to carry current on transparent polyester film and offers uniform temperature output across the entire visor surface, offers 85% to 90% visible light transmission, and operates in temperatures ranging from -40 ºF to 185 Fº. A snap-on connection system links to a wiring harness that allows connection to any power source. psb
Dealer Expo 2006
What to watch for in high-tech helmets