Skully: A motorcycle helmet that Steve Jobs would have liked
With a name like “Skully” there is admittedly some irony in pointing to this company as one that appears to have created a motorcycle helmet which fits the Steve Jobs Apple usability model.
I’m an ex-bike rider and one of the reasons I’m no longer driving a bike is that GPS, phone use and music (things I can get to in a car) aren’t convenient at all when you are on a bike.
As I watched the demo I was struck by how well the company thought these three things through and integrated them into an amazing helmet.
Motorcycle Tech: The Problem
The primary issue when you are riding a bike and trying to access media or navigation options? The usual places to put a music or navigation system are well out of the line of sight. Unlike a car where you are protected by a lot of steel, even a minor collision on a bike can be life threatening, so taking your eyes off the road is obviously far more dangerous.
For instance, just yesterday I watched a bike rider who was splitting lanes on the 101 freeway bounce off the side of a car that didn’t see him and changed lanes in front of him. It was a glancing blow and he didn’t fall largely because the motorcycle driver was focused and weaved in time but, alhtough had he been looking down at a phone or navigation system he’d likely be dead as he would have fallen right in front of my car and I couldn’t have stopped in time. So you basically need a system that keeps your eyes on the road and your hands on the handlebars and that is what Skully built.
This thing is really cool. It is a full screen heads up display helmet which boasts a built-in rear view camera (180 degrees), voice command integration, GPS and full smartphone Bluetooth integration. The most advanced part of this solution appeared to actually be the rear view camera. What makes this special is that no matter how your head is held the optics automatically adjust for the horizon and converted a fish eye lens into a nearly undistorted 180 degree view.
This was created with a partner who focuses on military grade optics. The result? An amazing view that also works in low light. Navigation turn by turn showed up as an overlay on the virtual display in the lower right third of the helmet view and the helmet’s high quality speakers play audio as well altering the sounds, much like a car's Bluetooth system does in terms of prioritizing. Meaning, verbal navigation directions can be heard over the music and phone call sound takes its place for the duration of the call.
Moving between the systems and interacting with them happens via voice command, leaving a motorcycle rider’s hands on the handlebars and his or her eyes on the road. This reminds me of how the first iPod was created under Jobs, along with almost every product after that.
Initially, each focused on a few critical items that the device had to do well and did so incredibly well. While Jobs, at least to my knowledge, was never a bike rider, I was struck by the elegance of this solution and how it fit that very same design constraint. It doesn't do a lot of things, but what it does (fantastically) is critical to a bike rider.
Wrapping Up: A Skully that Steve Jobs Could Love
John Scully was the guy who fired Steve Jobs from Apple which is why I found this very Apple like product’s name so unintentionally funny and ironic. But it has been years since I wanted to own and ride a bike again and seeing this helmet created a little, hell a lot, of lust in my heart for a new bike just so I would have someplace to use this amazing piece of equipment. The firm is small which is why they are at Demo, a show that showcases amazing startups, but it is often companies like Skully that stand out as having something amazing. If you still ride, check out Skully, it could be a product you can’t live without, quite literally.