Australian motorcycle helmet startup Forcite has received a welcome funding boost that will ensure its ultralight and ultra-hi-tech smart helmet hits the market in the next few months.
The Forcite helmet integrates a camera system, navigation, intercom and active noise-cancelling. It also features an electronically tinted visor that changes tint within a few milliseconds.
It looks so impressive, Australia’s longest-running research commercialisation fund Uniseed, has invested in the company, bringing Forcite’s total funding to $2.8 million.
Forcite spokesman Alfred Boyadgis says the money will allow them to “focus on completing the product and getting ready for test-days”.
“It also means we can stop eating pop tarts and two-minute noodles,” he jokes.
Alfred says the helmet will be launched in late April to mid-May.
A founder’s limited-edition helmet in carbon composite with gold logos will be available at around $US949 (about $A1330) to those who come along to their test days.
“This makes our helmet the most affordable smart helmet to be on the market,” Alfred says.
“The founder’s edition is only available to “test pilots” and will be heavily discounted as the point of it is to give something special to those who help us.
“We are selective with the test group and only 10% of people make it in.”
Smart helmet revolution
The smart helmet revolution is coming with several hi-tech helmets or add-on units hitting the market in the next few years, changing riding forever.
Not to be outdone by Silicon Valley and Asian tech wizards, Alfred and Julian Chow of Forcite Helmets in Sydney have developed their own smart helmet software package.
It evolved from an undergraduate UNSW design project after Alfred’s “near-death experience” in a motorcycle accident where his helmet cracked in half and the attached action camera almost penetrated his skull.
The helmet is based on similar smart helmets Forcite has developed for other industries, and the business recently received mentoring in the UNSW 10X Accelerator.
They say their helmet and software package give riders “greater situational awareness and allows them to overcome their lack of visibility on the road by communicating essential information about their ride in a completely safe manner”.
It can also alert riders to nearby safety hazards and provides video and audio recordings of the ride.
“We have seen riders attach all sorts of equipment to their helmets in an effort to record their rides – either for fun or for safety,” Alfred says.
“However, the practice of attaching cameras to helmets is currently illegal in NSW and being investigated by standards bodies in many countries as the devices add to the weight of the helmet and at high speed impact, can crack helmet shells, leading to death or injury.”
(Our understanding is that NSW and Victorian police still believe external fittings render a helmet illegal, but NSW have been ordered not to fine riders until the issue is officially resolved.)
Forcite recently invited riders to test the helmet in Australia and the US. More than 2000 riders registered to be test pilots.
Alfred says the company is now in discussions with major motorcycle brands and distributors in Australia and the United States.
“The early interest has resulted in a groundswell of momentum that will culminate when our helmets hit the road early this year,” he says.
Uniseed investment manager Natasha Rawlings says the need for the product is “immense”.
She says the market for helmets with electronics embedded is already worth more than $17 billion a year and will grow 10% in the next eight years.
“Our funding will enable the company to address this growing unmet need and deliver a safer, better experience for thousands of riders worldwide,” she says.