Almost two years ago, we featured a prototype device that would turn a sports or motorbike helmet into a speaker. The Headway stuck to the outside of a helmet and used surface transduction to transmit audio waves into the helmet. Now it's all grown up and it's called the Headwave Tag.
The Tag was conceived by Headwave founder Sophie Willborn, who wasn't enamoured with having to wear headphones under her helmet when biking. She pointed to awkward cables and easily dislodged earbuds as two frustrations caused by headphones, and set about trying to find a solution.
The solution that presented itself didn't just seek to improve headphones for under-helmet wearing, but did away with them altogether. The Tag's lack of cables or interior installation mean that it doesn't affect the fit of the helmet. After two further years of development, the Tag has been molded into a final product.
That development has seen many more prototyping rounds, testing everything from battery size and connectors to button positioning to casing pigmentation, Willborn tells Gizmag. Among the changes made include the addition of an adjustable curvature so that the device can be attached to different helmet shapes and sizes, and the reduction of the user interface down to a single button.
Users need only link the Tag with a phone or music-playing device via Bluetooth 4.1. By applying sound waves to the helmet which pass through it via transduction, the Tag is then able to fill inside of it with audio of the user's choosing. "You can imagine Tag as a strong loudspeaker without any membrane," says Willborn. "Tag uses the helmet itself as a membrane to create the sound."
The result is increased immersiveness, with music playing all around the user's head. The vibrations are also said to create powerful bass tones.
The Tag is made of made out of thermoplastic polyurethane and it measures 123 x 61 mm (4.8 x 2.4 in), extending just over 2 cm (0.8 in) out from the helmet. It is able to withstand speeds up to 300 km/h (186 mph) and is both water- and shock-proof. It has a 600-mAh li-ion battery that lasts for around 6-8 hours and is charged via USB.
The Tag was launched at the beginning of January and is available to order now at a price of €299 (about US$324). The video below provides an introduction to the device.