With a 180° rearview camera, Bluetooth and futuristic styling, Skully Helmets is bringing a fighter pilot-style Heads Up Display to your everyday motorcycle ride. We're the first publication to experience Skully in the real world.
Robert Gomez Hernandez, the Creative Director at Skully, invited me to a parking lot in Playa Del Rey and told me to bring a few co-workers to examine their new Skully AR-1. "AR" stands for Augmented Reality.
The dramatic lines and rear fin are sure to catch your eye initially, but it's not until putting it on do you realise how unique this helmet is.
Safety is the ultimate goal of the Skully, and the key aspect of the HUD is the rear-view camera. Any motorcycle rider will know how limited side mirrors are. Often, they show only elbows while requiring a rider to move his head and change his focal distance to view them. With Skully, mirrors are no longer a necessity. Your bike is now narrower, making splitting lanes that much easier. With the helmet on, you are able to see someone standing as close as two feet behind you and three feet to either side. This is all visible without moving your head!
These three little holes in the bottom are exhaust vents, pulling cool air through the helmet.
The rear view camera is also great for playing shadow puppets at stop lights.
The pictures do not do the experience justice.
While advertised mostly for the street, the applications of a rear view camera are endless. Think about racing and being able to tell which rider is trying to dive inside from behind you to steal your line. Or, how about a father taking his kids for a ride in the sand dunes or forest trails and not having to look back every five seconds to make sure they are still following.
I can personally vouch that as a leader of a group ride, this will be invaluable. How about the teenager sipping her Starbucks while Snapchatting her bestie right before she plows in to you while stopped at a light? With the rear view camera, these situations will be drastically different. Better vision informs better decision making.
The idea of riding at night and having a bright screen directly in front of your eye may not sound like the best idea, but the rear view camera can be used as an ambient light sensor to automatically adjust the brightness of the HUD.
Having Bluetooth connectivity will allow the helmet to connect to your smartphone and display calls, navigation, and a host of other features. These were not actively available in this first prototype, but the idea is there. Adding a Bluetooth transceiver to your modern bike will allow the helmet to read all sorts of data — revs, fuel levels, etc — and display the relevant info right to your eyes. All that's controlled by voice too, leaving you free of distractions as you focus on operating the motorcycle.
These photos do not really capture the in-person perception. The in-person experience of the HUD looks like a floating transparent rectangle out in front of your line of sight.
The display itself is translucent. When off, you can look right through it as if it were not even there. When displaying the rear view camera, or other features like navigation, transparency is maintained allowing the rider to have an unobstructed view of the road ahead.
While not openly advertised, one of the most awesome features was the electrochromic shield. With the push of a button on the rider's left side, the shield would instantly go from clear to a convenient tint. This is awesome for the most obvious reason of not having to carry two shields to deal with variable lighting conditions. The second benefit, to this fighter-pilot-like tinting, is the increased visibility of the HUD.
Skully claims a nine hour battery life, which should last for more than a week of average commuter use, or for an all day ride.
While not perfect, this initial prototype is miles ahead of what I had expected. There were no loose wires to be found, only a small piece of duct tape, but what prototype is not complete without its duct tape? Skully is planning to go through two more iterations of prototypes as they get closer to production, which may begin as early as next year, but details about this are hard for the startup company to nail down.
My only gripe with the display was the visibility in a high-contrast situation. With the bright blue sky above and dark long shadows below, it was difficult to make out what was right behind me at first. As with most things, practise will make perfect, and I am sure the more you use it, the more in tune you will be with the display.
Due to insurance liabilities and other red tape, we were not allowed to ride with it on. Robert nearly tackled me when I reached for the starter button on my bike. This is probably a good thing, because I will admit that using it for the first time was taking most of my attention. I am looking forward to the next iterations of the helmet and actually being able to ride with it on.
Photos: Corey Hass
IndefinitelyWild is a new publication about adventure travel in the outdoors, the vehicles and gear that get us there and the people we meet along the way. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.