The Google Glass of Motorcycle Helmets?

Marcus Weller has designed an Android-powered helmet that could be an industry game changer.

The first time Marcus Weller, CEO and founder of Skully Helmets, crashed his motorcycle into the back of a car in Barcelona in 2009, it was a painful reminder of his mortality.

He had been selected for a year-long international relations fellowship with a German nonprofit and traveled to Barcelona for research. Without a car, Weller decided to take a cue from the locals by getting around on two wheels.

Marcus Weller

"I don't know if you've ever been to Barcelona, but they put the street signs anywhere. Sometimes they're on a building and sometimes they're on a dog running by," he says. "I turned to my right to take a good, hard look at what street I would be turning on. I looked back because I heard these tires chirp. By that time, I was practically on top of this car and totaled my bike."

The second time a crash seemed imminent, it was 2011 and he was asleep, dreaming about that fateful day in Barcelona. "The difference [in the dream] was I had my GPS maps and they were floating in front of me like a hologram," he says.

He woke up from the dream at 4 a.m., grabbed his laptop and--even though he didn't own a motorcycle at the time--began unsuccessfully looking for a helmet like the one he had been wearing in his dream. The next day his father pointed out that an idea powerful enough to wake him out of a deep sleep was at least worth the money it cost to file a provisional patent.

The dream--and his father's encouragement--inspired Weller to build the Skully P-1, an Android-powered helmet with voice control, heads-up display, turn-by-turn directions, and Bluetooth connectivity.

A motorcycle rider uses the voice controls, turn-by-turn navigation, and Bluetooth features of the Skully P-1 Helmet to travel from a spot overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge to downtown San Francisco.

Earlier this month Weller, 29, began demoing his invention, which he says gives riders an ear-to-ear panorama of what's happening around them. He's put out the call for beta testers and has been in talks with executives in the motorcycle helmet industry.

"I've always had a major passion for how people interpret their world and human intelligence. It was always a fascinating thing to me," says Weller, who has a PhD in industrial psychology from Wayne State University in Detroit.

Now he finds himself exhilarated by the small tasks, like paperwork and meetings, that are part and parcel of running his own company. "None of that stuff seems menial to me," Weller says. "Even what other people may consider the dull parts of going and buying the parts, going through the first versions of a product until it works the way you want it to, or even filing paperwork--all of that stuff I see as tangible and tactical things bringing us closer to our goal."

By "us" he means the four-man team that manages Skully Helmets, which is based in Redwood City, Calif. They expect to start selling the P-1 in early 2014.

"We see an opportunity to take this technology and eventually expand it to growing markets, but we're laser-focused on bringing this motorcycle helmet to market because we feel there's an immense opportunity to really disrupt a market and save lives," he says. Not to mention finally turning a dream into reality.

[Images courtesy of Skully Helmet]

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12 Comments

  • Nick Vasey

    Nearly twenty years ago, I wondered why somebody hadn't built radar detectors into motorcycle helmets, and realised that would be a great idea. Looks like all this thing needs is a radar detector, and it'll be the total package! That voice just needs to be programmed to say, "revenue-raising scumbags ahead, turn left HERE."

  • InvidiaAbsit AKA 800LbGorilla

    Because twenty years ago the radar systems widely used by police were turning to laser - a technology that is almost undetectable and just now beginning to become available to the public. Besides, the radar detector market is very small. If no one developed one into a helmet it's probably because market research proved it would be a losing venture - not to mention you need to solve the power problem. They won't run on batteries very long. And there's compromising the helmet's structural integrity. And there's road and engine noise. The rider would have to wear a earplug and those are generally illegal. Rider's who wear communications devices inside the helmet are not wearing ear plugs, but semi-circular earphones like they used to make for pilots. Suffice to say there are a lot of obstacles to overcome and they probably wouldn't sell very well.

  • Nick Vasey

    I'm not going to get into a big debate about it, but the point is that however this helmet delivers its sound, the sound of the radar warning could be delivered the same way. Additionally, only DETECTING radar takes VERY little power, so power would not be an issue whatsoever. And, they have obviously managed to cram all this other tech in there, so I'm guessing adding the radar detecting component wouldn't be a very big deal. Road & engine noise? Seriously? How does adding a radar component make the "road and engine noise" matter (that they've obviously already successfully dealt with) any different? No mention of earplugs for the Skully unit as it stands, so none needed it would seem! The ONLY obstacles it would seem to me, might be legal ones (the only ones you DIDN'T mention!), NOT technical ones. So, basically, I've just shot down all your (frankly ridiculous) objections. Have a nice night. :)

  • InvidiaAbsit AKA 800LbGorilla

    I don't think you've ridden a motorcycle or actually had a radar detector. As for technical issues, you don't seem to know much about design or engineering either... You simply denied my claims, not refuted them. the battery operated models will run about a month on two AA cells. AA cells are big and bulky - too big and bulky to fit inside a helmet. You could mount them on the outside, but then, most people cherish their helmets and would refuse to glue something on. If you don't think road and engine noise are a big deal them you haven't ridden a CB1100F at 80 MPH with a Kerker header. Hint, it's a lot worse at 120. I bet you haven't ridden a CB750F at 165. Road and engine noise are really big obstacles at that speed.
    As for what makes a radar detector work, well there's this thing called a bellhousing (that's the aperture that catches the wave). The smaller it is the less effective it is. And laser detecting is virtually impossible because the beam is pencil thin. Unless they point the beam right at the detector lens you'll never know you were hit.
    As for shooting down anything, you just proved you don't really know much about anything...

  • Nick Vasey

    Yawn.
    Make a LOT of assumptions don't you?
    Bottom line is very simple.
    The technology exists. It's tiny. It's rechargeable. And they could easily incorporate it into this helmet.
    Meanwhile, I'll let you go back to your completely irrelevant, ego-stroking fantasy-world of "165 on a CB750F."
    Cos you obviously know what you're talking about.
    LOL.

  • InsaniaFactusMirus

    "ego-stroking fantasy-world of "165 on a CB750F."
    **
    You've never ridden one, have you? I have. You sir, are wrong.
    That's not to say there aren't hazards involved and it can be construed as foolhardy, yet that doesn't negate the fact the bike can and does attain that speed, or damn near.

  • InvidiaAbsit AKA 800LbGorilla

    Well, let's see. I've done those things. I am a radar technician. I've owned multiple radar detectors over the years. And it's just not a feasible thing at this time with the current tech. Sorry pal. No matter what you think, I am pretty sure you're not as close to each one of the things as I am.
    ##
    Oh, and I did deal with legality by talking about the issue of driving with an earphone. If you're talking about the legality from state to state for using/possessing a radar detector, that has little to do with the design elements the would need to be considered if you were to try and incorporate it into a helmet.
    ##
    As for assumptions, you mean like the fact you don't seem to know much about radar, engineering, design, or power demand and consumption, or ladar for that matter. I didn't make any assumptions, I stated you seem to not know much - an thought that's gaining traction with every exchange. You really need to learn what an assumption is before you go off using the term incorrectly.

  • Motorcycle Expert

    No thanks! Too much interference. Phone calls should not be taken while operating a motorcycle. Ride to get away from all that the road requires enough attention. Nice gimmick. Short life predicated. As a motorcycle instructor, race instructor and motorcycling advocate / professional, wouldn't buy it. And have you got a SNELL Memorial Rating on it? Doubt it.

  • Just5cents

    Its been widely refuted that SNELL standards are not nearly as safe as DOT/ECE combination helmets. This is mainly due in part to SNELL helmets having a harder shell for multiple impacts, while the DOT/ECE helmets have softer shells which reduce g-force impacts to your brain. Not having a SNELL raiting is not a big deal, especially since it reduces the overall price of a helmet seeing as companies have to PAY to have their helmet rated....

    And as far the HUD. Im not thinking about the phone calling capabilities, although if you think in the event of an accident that could come in very handy. Think of the GPS benefits. Or better yet, this could open up third party developers to create programs to work with it. For, instance, wireless communication with the bike's computer chip. RPM, Speed, and Fuel would reduce the amount of time taking a riders eyes off the road. How about a Gear indicator? All could be displayed when needed, or at the push of a button on the handlbars....also that rear view camera is an amazing idea!

    Again, its not about distractions, its about keeping the riders eyes forward on the road, but this is all relative until beta testers get their hands on one. Which of course I applied and hope I get picked.

  • me

    Snell is the only standard that does a penetration test which is very important for street riders. I bet your still reading the article from 2004 aren't ya. Yeah ya are. Old info you got there. The new testing is way different now. Just look up what changed in the 2010 ratings. Other than that there will always be a tech guy who wants something like this. Bluetooth in helmets has been the biggest thing in the last 18 months. You won't see many in stores though, to gimmicky.

  • Kawigirl

    Phone calls should not be taken during operation of ANY motor vehicle, but they do anyway. And they're not saying wear it on the tracks. It is a nice "option" to have. Especially the turn by turn GPS. How many people have their phone on GPS, and wear their earphone? Is that safer? I don't think so... And yes, I AM a "biker", not a "rider". SNELL rating? Really?