After years of talk, promises, starts, fits, and stops, the first-ever Head-Up Display (HUD) for a motorcycle helmet is finally about to hit the market. Many companies have tried; one infamously raised millions of dollars in crowd-funding money, then blew it all without delivering a single product.
But NUVIZ is no Skully. NUVIZ has assembled a savvy team of motorcycle industry insiders for its launch to market, and it’s got a bona fide financial backer in Pierer Industrie AG, the parent company of KTM and Husqvarna.
It's more than just an HUD; it's also a fully functional GPS and communications system that connects to your phone via Bluetooth, so it places and accepts calls and plays music via your phone. Unlike a lot of modern motorcycle gadgetry, NUVIZ is not just useful but user-friendly. Anybody who’s ever used a GPS will feel comfortable with the NUVIZ semantics and presentation.
And did we mention NUVIZ is also an HD camera that shoots photos and video?
The NUVIZ unit mounts on the right side of the helmet’s chinbar and its display is visible in the lower right corner of your field of vision. The adhesive mounts for the HUD unit and controller are basic, similar to ones used by GoPro, and installation of the earpieces and microphone are standard operating procedure for any motorcyclist who’s ever used an in-helmet communications system.
Push a small button on the top of the NUVIZ unit on your helmet and the system boots up in about the same amount of time it takes a cell phone to come to life. Once the display lights up in the clear plastic “combiner,” simply launch the app on your phone and NUVIZ is ready to go.
The combiner doesn’t look like much, just a small, clear piece of hard plastic. (It’s officially called a “Liquid Crystal on Silicon Microdisplay-based Projection Engine,” or LCOS microdisplay.) This is where full-color images are projected at a resolution of 800 x 480, while an ambient light sensor automatically adjusts brightness depending on outside conditions.
But does NUVIZ really work? It recently received a professional shakedown by road racers at Auto Club Speedway, and I was fortunate to be able to test a prototype for a couple of days as I rode a Harley-Davidson through the hills of central California. And I can say it works like a charm. Here's how.
Using the thumb controller, there are five display screens to toggle through: GPS, Dashboard, Music, Calls, and Rides. The GPS display is similar to that of most GPS units, albeit much smaller. It shows the map, speed, speed limit, and even has a small clock and battery charge indicator. Dashboard features a digital speedometer, and tells you what street you’re on. The Music screen is self-evident; just fire up the music on your phone and the song info displays on the combiner; use your thumb to skip, pause, play, and adjust volume, as well as to accept and end phone calls (crystal-clear, by the way). The Rides screen is for saving favorite routes.
Safely positioned at the lower edge of your peripheral vision, the LCOS display is sensational. Seeing all that information at a glance, without taking your eyes off the road, is a game-changer for motorcyclists. (It should be noted that in direct overhead sunlight, the image in our prototype’s combiner did wash out a bit. NUVIZ is aware of this, though, and is confident the production version will address the issue.)
To use the eight-megapixel camera, push the camera button on the controller and a small green icon will light up in the lower right-hand corner of the display. It also activates a live view. To take a picture, simply look at what you want to snap, and tap the camera button; for video, press and hold the button. That’s it. Photos are pushed directly to your smartphone, ready to be shared at your next stop; videos are saved to a MicroSD card in the unit. Battery life on the NUVIZ is claimed to be seven to eight hours, but only four to five if you’re shooting a lot of video.
So despite all the false starts, lofty claims, and unfulfilled promises — and despite the inherent skepticism of whether a motorcycle helmet HUD could ever, would ever actually be a thing! — the NUVIZ quickly grew on me. Before long, the controller was intuitive. And while I was initially leery that having something new in my vision would be vexing, more often than not I forgot the LCOS was there, and referred to it only when I needed some info. More importantly, I eventually quit taking my eyes off the road to look down at the motorcycle’s gauges — exactly what a HUD should do.
Because it’s the first HUD to make it to market, NUVIZ is primed to generate lots of attention. But its value should endure far longer than its buzz. Sure, at $699 it’s not cheap — but NUVIZ effectively does away with much of the high-tech gadgetry modern motorcyclists are used to futzing with. When you eliminate the GoPro, the GPS, the helmet comm system, and the stereo, the cost of NUVIZ is more than mitigated.
With all those gadgets contained in one small unit clipped to your helmet, the only thing left for you to do is enjoy the symbiosis of man and machine.