Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Headway turns an entire helmet into a speaker

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February 6, 2014

Headway is a new device that turns a helmet into a wearable speaker

Headway is a new device that turns a helmet into a wearable speaker

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For those who like to listen to music while biking, skiing or snowboarding, Headway aims to satisfy with good vibrations. The device attaches to the outside of a helmet using a magnetic mechanism in combination with a secure mounting system, and turns the whole thing into a wearable speaker. Music is streamed to the system from a smartphone, and controlled using a companion app.

Rather than emitting sound from a speaker, Headway uses surface transduction to transmit vibrations through the helmet itself. The result, in the words of Headway's founder and CEO Sophie Willborn, "turns the whole helmet into an acoustic resonating body with outstanding audio quality."

Willborn explained to Gizmag that Headway was borne out of her two passions, motorbikes and music. Frustrated with having to deal with awkward headphone cables and earbuds that become easily dislodged, she went about finding a solution. One of the ideas she tried was surface transduction and it proved to be surprisingly successful. "I was overwhelmed by the sound inside the helmet," she says.

The device is paired via Bluetooth with a smartphone running an app, with which users can ...

Working out of the Berlin Startup Academy, Willborn created the first of several prototypes by September 2013 and began testing it. Specific prototypes were created for design and functionality, and ongoing development led to a wireless version at the beginning of this year. The final design is a 3D-printed device that communicates with a user's smartphone via Bluetooth. Willborn and her team will begin crowdsourcing funds for the production of Headway in April. The technical development has been funded with angel investment.

A variety of issues were tackled during the development process, including what material to use, how long the battery should last, how the device should be attached to the helmet and what features the app should have. The name of the device was also changed from Rockatoo to Headway.

Despite these challenges, and only being at the development stage, Headway has already won several awards, including first prizes at Idea Camp and the Betahaus Festival Hardware Pitch.

When asked how Headway compares to headphones, Willborn enthuses "It’s like being in a soundbox. The whole helmet is the acoustic resonance body so you can hear the music from everywhere around you. The best thing is, you can feel the bass. The whole helmet vibrates when you hear music with strong bass."

Assuming the crowdfunding process goes to plan, Headway will be available from the middle of 2014 and will retail for around €270 (US$365).

Source: Headway

About the Author
Stu Robarts Stu is a tech writer based in Liverpool, UK. He has previously worked on global digital estate management at Amaze and headed up digital strategy for FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology). He likes cups of tea, bacon sandwiches and RSS feeds.   All articles by Stu Robarts
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10 Comments

Other than this being a bluetooth device how is it any different or 'revolutionary' to the BoomBox V3 by wowzer?

Daffy
6th February, 2014 @ 05:30 pm PST

Might sound terrific, but what about hearing the occasional car horn or police / ambulance sirens?

On a motorcycle, one needs every chance to AVOID accidents, not give the rider even worse odds.

Like pedestrians or joggers, people caught using anything like this should get the same fine as a car driver caught using or texting with a mobile phone.

The Skud
6th February, 2014 @ 07:21 pm PST

The Skud, it shouldn't be a problem, I wear earplugs under my helmet to block sound and I can still hear everything I need to hear including my helmet to helmet communications with other bikers. This looks like a good concept I hope it works out? :-)

mrhuckfin
7th February, 2014 @ 04:26 am PST

Looks like it is similar to a Tunebug Shake. I have one. Does't work well in motorcycle application. Volume is not loud enough at highway speeds to hear it.

AEH in FL
7th February, 2014 @ 08:39 am PST

Did you see the PRICE! $365! If it was $50 or lower it might have a chance. This has been done before, I can't remember the name of the product, I believe Gizmag did something on it - it wasn't nearly this expensive.

David Finney
7th February, 2014 @ 08:45 am PST

So, Ms. Headway was "Frustrated with having to deal with awkward headphone cables and earbuds that become easily dislodged, she went about finding a solution"??

She never heard of Cardo, Interphone, UClear or any of the other myriad providers of Bluetooth helmet systems with wireless speakers (and mike for telephone) in the helmet? And unlike earplugs, in-helmet speakers allow for the hearing of ambient noise (horns, sirens, etc.). And they're ALL way less expensive than $350+.

Meanwhile, this concept seems DOA when you account for the various styles of helmet - modular (including the Shark Evoline where the chi bar goes all the way behind your head) to one-piece styles, made of different materials that likely have different resonance characteristics.

Seems like another solution in search of a problem to me...

f8lee
8th February, 2014 @ 05:34 am PST

This is an exceptionally stupid idea. However, the high price serves as a automatic Darwin opportunity to cull well-heeled idiots from the general biker population.

Blocking out the world around you even walking is an exceptionally bad idea.

StWils
8th February, 2014 @ 09:52 am PST

Hey, I just want to clear some of your concerns!

@Daffy: The difference to the BoomBox V3 is, that it’s developed especially for helmets and it’s also completely wireless. HEADWAY is a bluetooth device, which you can easily mount on the backside of your helmet and start listening to music. You don’t have to connect your smartphone by wire to a control unit, which is also connected by wire to a speaker.

How can the BoomBox be mounted on a helmet?

@The Skud: HEADWAY doesn’t block the sound more, than the helmet does. It’s like sitting in the car while listening to the radio. The sounds from the outside are overlayed from the music which comes out of your radio. The result is, when you increase the volume, the audibility from the outside sounds becomes more worse. You have to listen responsible. And if the people should get a fine caught using HEADWAY, every car driver who is listening to music in the car should get a fine too, because listening to music with HEADWAY isn’t different to that.

@AEH in FL: It is a little bit similar, we use the same transducer technology.

Like I said, HEADWAY is especially developed for helmets. HEADWAY is more powerful and has a nice bass. And if you want, the sound is loud enough at highway speeds.

In the future there will be an app with which a lot of different services (e.g. weather forecasts, navigation, maybe some security stuff..) are provided.

@f8lee: Cardo, Interphone and Co are known products. Some of them are little bit uncomfortable because of their wired solutions and the in-ear speaker slip easily away. This is one of the reasons why HEADWAY has been developed. HEADWAY uses neither earplugs nor in-helmet speakers. Just one device on the outside. No speakers inside of the helmet.

Even when the chin bar (shark evolution) is behind the head, there is enough space to mount HEADWAY. HEADWAY was still tested with different kinds of helmets (e.g. snowboard, skater, full face bicycle, motorcycle helmets) and they all worked great.

Just visit us on www.rockatoo.de , if you want to get some more information about our start-up and the upcoming crowd funding campaign.

Thanks for the feedback! :)

Robert_HEADWAY
10th February, 2014 @ 03:40 pm PST

I think it's a great idea. Trying to put speakers into many helmets causes pressure points that can get really painful on long rides, and I've never been able to get earbuds to work for me while wearing a helmet.

Price does seem a little high though, and for any premium system I'd want a good, unobtrusive mic included.

My main question is around the durability of both the system and the helmet, but particularly the helmet - helmets are usually made of a fibreglass or carbon fibre shell with an energy-absorbing EPS core and a soft foam interior, and I'm concerned that over the time the vibrations being transmitted through the helmet would cause some separation of the layers, ultimately make the helmet less safe.

Billy600
12th February, 2014 @ 01:36 pm PST

I have a Sena blutooth headset mounted in my helmet, which works well, especially with earplugs in (which block the wind noise). And to you naysayers / safety namby-pambyes, I can tell you that even with the sound up loud, I am still very much aware of what's happening around me, and can still hear the outside world. Besides, being an ALIVE motorcyclist for the past 40 years means I'm very much alert to what's going on in my vicinity and further afield.

My one concern with this comes in the light of the revelation that Michael Schumacher's head injury came about from the camera fitted to his ski helmet causing it to shatter. Does this have implications for reduced safety for any helmet fitted with the Headway? What about increased turbulence around the Headway at speed?

Ian Cameron
17th February, 2014 @ 11:43 am PST
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