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EETE JAN 2016

NEWS & TECHNOLOGY auegmntde raeilty French startup plugs smartglasses into bikers’ helmets By Julien Happich As you would suspect, the 2015 Paris Motorcycle Show held Portes de Versailles was, well, full of shiny motorbikes. But one exhibit that really caught my sight was the in-retina display plug-in helmet accessory that Eye-Lights co-founders Romain Duflot (CEO) and Thomas De Saintignon (CTO) were demonstrating at the www.motoblouz.com stand. The duo of freshly graduated engineers from ICAM Toulouse (mid-2015) developed and prototyped their Moto Display helmet add-on over the course of their last year as students, “the company is being registered as we speak” explained Duflot Romain. The Moto Display comprises of a clip-on image projection and lens unit which is fed data from a lightweight Bluetoothenabled module that sticks to the helmet. “What you see is only a prototype”, insists Duflot. Indeed, most if not all of the mechanical parts are 3D printed from plastic. The Bluetooth connection retrieves GPS and mapping data from the biker’s smartphone, a dedicated application turns the data into clear traffic instructions displayed as a virtual images forming directly onto the wearer’s retina, as if seen at a distance. The beauty is that you always look in front of you, not in any tiny corner like it would be the case with the Google glasses, so you keep the road and traffic in sight while your speed and guiding arrows are floating in a distance. But this has been done before, hasn’t it? Or at least something similar but fully integrated, look at the Skully AR fully integrated smart helmet, a real success on Indiegogo. So why not go for a full integration? Eye-Lights’ CTO De Saintignon wouldn’t want to discredit competition, yet he hinted that the helmet quality may not be up to the best standards. “As a tech company, we’d rather focus on the added-value our technology can bring and offer it directly to consumers than improvise ourselves helmet manufacturers”. “What’s more, because the device is an add-on, just any one owning a helmet can use it. You don’t have to depart from your favourite helmet and buy another one that may not match your taste or your look”, added Duflot, “a helmet is a very personal item, and many bikers would be reluctant to change theirs”. Indeed, looking at it this way, the potential market for the Moto Display is much larger, and it could serve use cases beyond regular bikers (law enforcement or emergencies). Just think about automated licence platerecognition from a built-in front camera on a police motorbike, coupled with an eye-level alert whenever the agent crosses path with a wanted plate-number. Anyhow, reaching consumers is on Eye-Lights’ priority list. The company is currently looking for investors to help them finance further product development and to strike deals with future manufacturing partners. “Within a year or so, we’ll probably be ready to make our public product launch through a crowdfunding campaign, but before, we must be 100% sure about our production costs. In such a project, a Kickstarter campaign is only the emerging tip of the iceberg, there is a lot of work to be done before” Duflot concluded. Now, if such add-ons were to become popular in the future, wouldn’t helmet manufacturers want to integrate most of the recurring electronics, say a battery compartment and a small board with a Bluetooth connection, seamlessly designed somewhere at the back, and a couple of versatile outputs near the visor for most gadgets to plug in? Not really. Most helmet manufacturers at the show would say their highest priority is the wearer’s protection and comfort, which according to most of them, is in contradiction with any inclusion of electronic hardware. They consider electronics as dead weight, extra grams that would invariably alter the comfort and that would make their offering compare unfavourably with their competitors’ products. But what if augmented reality became a must-have for helmets? Managing director for Arai Helmet Europe, Ingmar Stroeven admits he has seen study prototypes, tentatively designed as conceptual products from automotive business partners. But from Arai’s standpoint, these helmets would never pass the stringent reliability and safety tests at the level that makes the company’s helmets stand above the crowd. “Passing the ECE mark is one thing, and many helmets do just that, but we build helmets that go beyond basic ECE standard protection.” “I’ve seen a head-up display helmet prototype, but it was not convincing enough and at Arai, we would never build anything into our helmets that would not either directly improve comfort or increase protection. Today’s electronics is too cumbersome. It would have to be really tiny and weigh literally nothing before we would consider integrating electronics”, concluded Stroeven. 20 Electronic Engineering Times Europe January 2016 www.electronics-eetimes.com


EETE JAN 2016
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