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This $399 Gadget Brings Augmented Reality to Your Motorcycle Helmet

(Image credit: Whyre)

Promising live rear view, turn-by-turn GPS and smartphone integration, the Skully AR-1 motorcycle helmet blew the minds off of both investors and consumers alike in 2013. Amidst a scandalous story of lavish spending, executive oustings and a lawsuit, most helmet shipments went unfulfilled as the company went out in a blaze of furious investors.

As a technically inclined kid I was enamored by the prospect of an augmented reality future. When the time came for my permit, signs of the product actually launching became grim. By the time I reached 17 the entire company was up in smoke. With the company dissolved, my dream of driving a neon Honda VTR 250 into Manhattan languished into the sunset. 

Skully may have blew into the wind, but the technology could not escape my mind. So when a posting on PRNewsWire earlier this week revealed that Argon’s Transform was taking reservations, with every promised feature of Skully improved upon, my jaw dropped.

(Image credit: Whyre)

Enter Whyre, a Singaporean startup who is creating the Argon Transform. Opting to create an add-on for existing motorcycle helmets, the company has plenty of headway over competitors thanks to its ability to evade rigorous safety testing. Promising a fully-featured HUD, rear view camera, front-facing dash cam, intercom, Bluetooth connectivity and GPS, the Transform rises out of Skully’s ashes.

Compatible with your existing headwear, the kit attaches two IP65 rated modules to the lid of your helmet. That means if you get trapped in rain or a dust storm, a high strength 3M adhesive ensures that your system sticks to your helmet. An obtuse rear unit houses a rear camera as well as the battery claimed to last approximately 8 hours. Whyre has crafted a chin piece to center the HUD in your vision, tracking your field of view to optimally position the display. This prevents you from having to spin your head in circles to find the information you need.

Argon’s HUD is customizable to what you want displayed. While speed and navigation prompts will show in every mode, their prominence can be set by you according to the node you select. For example, one of the website’s demonstrations shows a dashboard mode that envelops you in speed information and media controls. Another shows a live feed of the road behind the driver with low latency. Lastly Argon shows a navigation mode that includes a live map display. 

Wrapping around to the front unit, your field of view is captured by an action cam. Your choices are 1080p at 30 frames per second or 720p at 60 frames per second. The camera records to SD card format and uses a looping functionality to discard all unimportant footage. The controls are located on the handlebars via a wireless unit. Whyre will also provide a dedicated mobile application. Other than connecting to the product, the app will provide trip statistics and captured media management.

Both the front and rear units of the kit weigh each other out at an approximate 0.33 pounds each. The look is definitely bulky, a tradeoff for the tech. While the design won’t win any awards, a bluetooth system that includes a bike to bike intercom system (with a maximum distance of 328 feet) just might. You can also control calls, playlists and destinations for your GPS.

As far as safety goes, nobody knows what kind of impact these units will have in a crash. However, this external kit is the best chance of developing the tech and actually getting it into the hands of riders with a lower price than a fully equipped smart helmet. The ability to add it on to your own favorite helmet helps tap into a market of potential buyers who wouldn’t want to give up their customized protection.

Whyre is launching the Argon Transform on Indiegogo at an early bird pledge level of $399, with pre-order reserves ceasing on August 23. That’s the same price point last year’s Jarvish AR helmet system launched at and $1,500 less than the Fenix AR helmet available for purchase now. Standard crowdfunding disclaimers apply, but this could be a quick and effective way to get a HUD and a ton of smart features into a helmet you already own.

The Argon Transform could be the biggest revolution for riders in years. It could also be another flop waiting to burn down in flames. Regardless, the company’s ability to hit 85% of its goal with a full month left to go proves that there is a market of people out there waiting for this technology to hit the mainstream.