A Russian company, LiveMap, is looking for funding to produce a helmet-mounted optical display of GPS-based route information controlled by a natural language voice-command system like iPhone’s “Siri.”
Such helmet displays have heretofore existed only for military pilots, although the underlying concept of a display focused at infinity and superimposed over the user’s line of sight is very old. Currently, to use a GPS navigation device, a motorcyclist must find the device, look down at the display and control it via buttons or a touch-screen. While more convenient than chasing folded paper maps in high winds, this process requires interrupting your journey.
Over the past five years, LiveMap has developed a prototype in-helmet optical system and electronic processor and hopes to market it—initially in the English-speaking world because voice-control technology is most developed there—for $2000 per helmet. The helmets would meet major safety standards, such as DOT.
Two 3-Ah rechargeable batteries power the system. The display projector is mounted above and behind the wearer’s head but within the carbon-fiber shell. Its image, containing the usual navigation data, is projected such that the user sees the information superimposed on his/her visual field. Because the display is focused at infinity, the user need not change focus to see it. He or she simply speaks requests for new information into a microphone. Recognition is currently said to be 95 percent.
Anyone who has read accounts of fighter combat in the world wars has seen references to the “reflector sight.” This superimposed the image of a sight ring, focused at infinity, on the pilot’s forward view. Placing an angled glass plate in the sight line and projecting the image of the sight ring onto it from a projector located in the instrument panel accomplished this. A major problem in sighting a firearm is that the shooter cannot focus simultaneously on the distant target, the front sight and the rear sight. The reflector sight eliminated this focus problem by focusing the image of the sight at the same distance as the target—namely, at infinity.
Sir Howard Grubb, an English manufacturer of telescopes and, later, submarine periscopes, patented the initial reflector sight in 1901. The “head-up display” is simply a reflector sight that presents more data, making it unnecessary for the pilot to break concentration and waste time by looking down and re-focusing on the instrument panel for essential information. It was a small step to convert such a system to present computer-generated visual information of any kind.
While a head-up display for motorcycles is certainly practicable, a helmet-mounted display is more convenient, allowing the user access to information at any head angle.
LiveMap: Motorbike helmet with navigation