February 23, 2024

Where are you going, Scully? A smart helmet company darling on Indiegogo made all sorts of promises in 2014, even shipping a few lids to early backers, before getting lost on the way to market, disappearing into a cloud of false hype and unfulfilled promises middle.

Nearly a decade later, another company called mandatory The return made many of the same promises: the smart helmet is less a safety device than a digital companion, offering integrated navigation with visual and audible cues.

Forcite skips the ugly crowdfunding process, though, and instead works directly with distributors. The company has shipped thousands of MK1S smart helmets, and yes, its technology really works.

But that’s just the beginning of the Australian startup’s journey to create a platform it hopes will become integral to motorcycle safety.

inspired by a car accident

Co-Founder of Forcite Smart Helmet

Forcite co-founders Alfred Boyadgis and Julian Chow. Image Source: mandatory

Forcite was founded a decade ago, initially dabbling in various wearable technologies, such as helmet cameras for American football players. CEO and co-founder Alfred Boyadgis said development of the smart helmet started in 2019.

“I was in a motorcycle accident and I wanted to create a technology that wasn’t just about passive safety or impact, but that could predict what was ahead on the road and change the decision,” Boyargis said in a recent interview.

He was also inspired by the GoPro craze. “Everybody started using these action cameras on the front of the helmet and cameras on the side of the helmet,” Boyargis said. “These things increase the rotational speed of the helmet.”

In a crash, more rotational speed on the helmet means more force is transmitted to the inner brain. Put everything inside the shell of the helmet so there is less force.

Forcite’s in-house team began iterating on design concepts, but quickly turned to the wisdom of the crowd.

“We formed an online test pilot club of 8,000 riders – it’s on a Facebook page,” Boyardjis said. “We brought these riders together and we started talking about the technology they were using. So, you know, how they use the dash cam, what they don’t like about how they use the communication set, how they use the audio. And then there’s this new layout, like they How to effectively receive information?”

Riding a motorcycle requires more concentration than driving a car. A moment’s distraction can be deadly, so the headset’s user interface must be minimized.

The Forcite team ultimately rejected an earlier idea to include an augmented reality display in the Skully AR-1.

nuts and bolts

Forcite smart helmet application

Image Source: mandatory

At its simplest, the MK1S is a helmet with an integrated Bluetooth audio connection, including speakers positioned above the ears. This means riders can take calls, listen to music or get navigation instructions that are sent wirelessly to the helmet via their phone.

Many manufacturers now sell helmets with integrated Bluetooth functionality. The novelty of the MK1S is a row of RGB LEDs inside the helmet above the chin bar. These lights shine upward to provide simple visual cues to the rider, all driven by a smartphone app. For example, a green swipe from left to right means a right turn. Orange swept inwards means an accident ahead. Fast blinking red indicates that the camera is activated.

A 1080p camera is built into the chin and can be used to automatically record events. It can also manually toggle highlights, which are stored on a microSD card. A separate wireless controller mounts to the bike’s handlebar, allowing the rider to switch between camera, phone and navigation with the press of a thumb. Currently, this is the only way to issue commands to the helmet while cycling.

While the electronics are located within the helmet shell, including the rechargeable ceramic battery, they do not compromise the crucial foam that actually protects the rider’s head. This design not only ensures the greatest possible safety and performance in the various international helmet approvals, but also allows for repeated use. If the helmet is damaged in a crash or otherwise, the electronics can be transferred to a replacement.

In the long run, this may reduce costs for some people. However, the upfront costs are huge.

The new Forcite MK1S is priced at $1,099 in the US. By comparison, top-of-the-line helmets from leading manufacturers like Shoei and Arai, which Boyadgis and his colleagues have tried to work with, cost around $600 to $800.

“So, we actually visited a lot of manufacturers and asked if they wanted to make one, and they all said, ‘No, we’re very happy with the margins on motorcycle helmets,'” he said.

predict desire

Much of the functionality of the MK1S is driven by the Forcite app, which currently gets data from Here Technologies. The developers are redesigning the app to use Mapbox (which, according to a Forcite representative, is said to provide a “smoother, more polished experience”). The Forcite app provides navigation and issues debris, collision and even police warnings, which are communicated to the rider via voice prompts and LED light bars.

Interestingly, the in-helmet alert works even when the rider is not actively driving.

“It does its best to give you information on the real-world route ahead, not on parallel roads or roads that are separate from the current graphical network,” said Tom Lacher, Forcite’s senior development manager.

Lacher said this is just the beginning. “Predicting particularly dangerous corners is a great thing to do,” he said. He said the app would soon take into account factors such as road conditions, historical events and even the current speed of the motorcycle before warning riders if a certain section of road exists. Danger. .

“Predicting AI will be used for this,” Lacher said, successfully conveying the hottest buzzword of the moment in our interview.

final integration

mandatory smart helmet

Image Source: mandatory

The long-term goal is to integrate not only helmets and smartphones, but the bike itself. Currently, most motorcycles are primitive, simple machines compared to the rolling data factories of modern cars—software-defined vehicles with Ethernet backbones that collect hundreds of data points in real time.

According to Boyargis, the motorcycle will get there soon.

“There are definitely more sensors on the bike,” he said. “Advanced perception systems are definitely going to become commonplace across the industry. We want to be a standardized interface.”

Forcite is working to define a new protocol for this connection that is more reliable than the typical Bluetooth interface used for wireless accessories. However, the usefulness of a standard depends on its proponents.

For the moment, a Forcite representative declined to say which manufacturers are behind the idea, saying only that they have worked with both brands on “deeper integration.”

Forcite announced a partnership with Harley-Davidson Australia “to develop next-generation smart helmets and sensing systems to prevent and identify hazards, such as debris and other road users, and alert riders so they can take evasive action.”

In the world of motorcycles, nothing beats HD.

CEO Boyadgis says we won’t see the technology on motorcycles until 2026 at the earliest, and hopes to have the necessary protocols integrated into Forcite’s helmets as soon as next year.

“What we’re trying to do is find a way to license some of the Japanese and Italian manufacturers to be able to pair with their bikes without what they’re selling,” he said.

next-gen fancy features

Other upcoming advancements will be more lifestyle-focused, including an in-helmet voice assistant capable of handling things like, “Hey, Forcite: Contact the first four people I know who ride Ducati in my area, and make a plan that takes advantage of that.” style bikes, so we all met up for lunch at a Mexican restaurant.”

Boyadgis hopes to deploy this “collaborative riding experience” within the next two years, making the helmet a true companion on the bike.

Forcite’s physical offerings will also continue to evolve, including new models optimized for different types of riding, such as vintage-style helmets for cruisers, flip-up helmets for the touring crowd, and adventure-style helmets with visors.

Markets and Currencies

To achieve this goal, the company needs to raise capital. Forcite closed a A$6.6 million funding round in December to fuel the expansion of distribution into the US. The company is currently raising a Series B round to raise capital to fund future helmet designs and the R&D needed to advance all of these applications.

Forcite is paying particular attention to the US market and plans to ship more than 10,000 units next year. The brand has shipped 5,000 pieces, of which about 3,000 went to the company’s home Australian market.

But, says Boyadgis, the potential is even greater: “Let’s bring a brand like Arai or Shoei to the US; they sell over 50,000 units. So, that’s where we want to go.”

But the question is whether Forcite’s high-tech, high-priced helmets will appeal to the same audience as simple, comfortable, relatively affordable helmets from familiar, respected brands.

For many, riding a motorcycle is a rejection of the complexity and claustrophobia of driving.

Even Boyadgis has simplified his everyday Forcite experience, using it as a dash cam but not for navigation. “I do have it hooked up in the background, but I only have police and speed camera alerts – not that I’m speeding or anything. But if I’m going to turn a corner or something and need to slow down, they’re very useful. So , it really depends on, like, how much you want to use it, right?”

Whether Forcite can challenge established brands or convince traditional motorcyclists to spend more remains to be seen. However, early indications are that Forcite is on the right track. Excitement over the failed Skully AR-1 product shows the need for smarter helmets. Hunger still appears to be intact; Forcite has shipped more than Skully.