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These 12 smart helmets are totally worth the helmet hair

Aliya Barnwell

Summer is prime time for sports — extreme ones where people strap GoPros to their heads to record just how hardcore they are. And everything hardcore requires a helmet.

These days everything’s smart, including the stuff that some people refuse to wear because they think it can make them look dumb. Helmets are still the bane of many a haircut, but at least now they can do other things to make up for it – as if keeping you from cracking your head open like an egg wasn’t enough. There are even a few add-ons you can grab to add smart features to your favorite helmet.

Related: Turn any bike into a rental with AirDonkey, the Airbnb for bicycles

LifeBEAM ($200)

LifeBEAM Thumb

Intended for cycling use, the LifeBeam smart helmet is a basic workout monitor, measuring heart rate and calorie consumption. What is special for those who use traditional – read: old school — heart-rate monitors is that the LifeBeam helmet doesn’t need a chest strap, and instead takes your pulse through your forehead, making it way more comfortable. It connects via ANT+ or Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to a slew of cycling computers, sports watches, apps and computer programs … 262 of them so far. You don’t even have to worry about getting caught in a downpour or snowstorm; it has all-weather compatibility that means you can keep it on your head year round – at least when you’re biking. The 2015 model is down from $230 to $200.

Buy it now from:

Amazon LifeBEAM

Force Alpine

Forcite Alpine

There are those who will seek snow, no matter the time of year. Half the planet is heading toward winter right now, after all. Designed for winter sports, the Forcite Alpine is next-level mountain gear. With GPS tracking, an altimeter, motion and impact sensors, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, fog lights, HD video, and integrated speakers, this could keep you connected with your crew no matter where you are on the mountain — and record every badass stunt you stumble your way into. With the open front and visorless style, the Alpine could be a welcome addition to many a winter crew, professional or otherwise.

Unfortunately, Forcite cancelled the crowd funding on the company’s Kickstarter campaign due to concerns about delivery delays. But Forcite forges on, appearing at the Convergence Trade Show in Sydney. The company is also working on a Motorcycle Forcite (the Moto) but that’s a ways off yet. The company’s Facebook page is active if you want to keep an eye out for their helms.

Skully AR-1 ($1,500)

Skully Thumb

The AR-1’s eye-catching features are the rear-view camera and a transparent, Infinite Focus HUD that’s projected against the visor. Turn by turn directions are sourced through your phone; the helmet lets you keep it in your pocket with hands-free calling.

In Skully’s 2104 Indiegogo campaign, the company advertised a ship date of July 2015. It is now April, 2016, and after over two year of delays that led some backers to fear they’d been duped, Skully has finally begun to ship the AR-1 smart helmets. Sorta. Unfortunately, many backers are still concerned with continued delays. Helmets are going out to reviewers, but many backers, even those among the first (called “speed demons” in the original fundraising campaign), are still left wanting.

But then again, a helmet is not an area where you want to cut corners for speed’s sake. This writer knows a head injury is nothing to scoff at. That said, by releasing late Skully has allowed other smart helmets (like LiveMap) and established brands (like Bell) to catch up. We’ll see if they’re able to hold market interest now that the field of competition is growing. We can’t wait to see the finished product.

Pre-order now from:

Amazon Skully

LiveMap ($1,500)

LifeMap Thumb

Helmet-mounted displays will eventually be like flat screens — once cutting edge, now turned commonplace — as projection and smart technologies become easier to manage. LiveMap is a motorcycle helmet that uses augmented reality for navigation. Street names, speed, and turn-by-turn directions are displayed directly over the world around you, negating the need to shift focus from the road. Slow to a stop, and you can pop up your map. The LiveMap smart helmet also includes a microphone and earphones for voice control.

LiveMap’s helmet remains open for crowdfunding, and now has a prototype. Digital Trends will have some hands-on time with the LiveMap, so keep an eye on us if you want to see it in action. If you want one for yourself, you can still head to the company website.

Pre-order it now from:

LiveMap

NandLogic Encephalon 

Helmet 35

This helm has so many features, if they’re all realized and work well it will truly be the motorcycle helmet of the future, whether you ride a crotch rocket or a cruiser. Take the increasingly standard GPS, accelerometer, and gyroscope, and add even more features: ambient light sensors, headlights, turn signals, brake lights, collision warnings, and a fan, to just look hot instead of actually being hot on summer days.

Arguably the most advanced headgear when compared to the AR-1 and LiveMap, NandLogic also has the farthest to go to reach a finished product. In February, the company released a newsletter with updates on the helmet’s tech, some of which are quite interesting and continue to set the Encephalon apart from the others competing to be the smartest helmet. For instance, the Encephalon uses a smart film on the shield, instead of a photochromic lens like the Skully, which means the rider determines the transparency instead of the UV levels. Daniel from NandLogic told Digital Trends, “We have commissioned two prototypes we are expecting them in about a month, we will perform some quick field tests and then we will kick off the crowd-funding campaign.” Sign up on the website or check the company Facebook page to stay up to date.

Learn more from:

Nand Logic

Bell Star with 360Fly

Bell Star with 360Fly

Bell offers a helmet for just about every sport. In January 2016, the company announced a partnership with 360Fly on a line of smart helmets with integrated 360-degree cameras. These include the Bell Star for road motorcycle riders, the Moto 9 Flex for off-road motorcycling, the Super 2R for all-mountain riding, and the Giro Edit for snow sports. Each will feature an integrated 360Fly 4K camera, a device that’s designed to handle traditional 16:9 video and work alongside the official 360Fly mobile app. The camera also has GPS, a barometer-altimeter, and an accelerometer. The best part is that the camera is removable, meaning you can also use it without the helmet. With the camera in place, each helmet in the lineup will deliver proximity alerts for objects that rest outside the rider’s line of sight. BRG sports is pitching these helmets as an easy option for those looking to make VR content, and plans to release them to stores later this year.

Learn more from:

Bell

Livall Helmet ($120)

Livall Helmet

After an incredibly successful Indiegogo campaign, the first Livall Bling helmet began shipping to backers near the end of October 2015. Built-in LED strips on the top and rear, which you can control using the Jet remote that’s affixed to the handlebars, serve as turn signals and warning lights. The helmet works with the official Livall app to issue automatic SOS impact alerts. If the wearer falls, for example, the app will automatically call his or her emergency contact. A windbreak microphone and Bluetooth speaker also allow for hands-free calling. Read our full review here.

Buy it now from:

Amazon

Lightmode Proton Kit ($72)

LightMode Proton Kit

Lightmode is an attachment designed to work with any motorcycle helmet. This is more decorative than “smart” technology. Perfect for Tron cosplay, you merely have to glue these lights on with the provided two-part adhesive to ensure they hold at high speeds. A flexible sticky mount holds a tiny controller for the lights, the latter of which last up to 13 hours on two AA batteries and feature three modes (constant, slow blink, and fast blink). Lightmode also comes in two kit sizes, with the Proton kit affording you about 15 feet of piping in one of seven colors. The company crushed its initial Kickstarter campaign in 2014, and has plans to launch a second this year. Add yourself to the mailing list for future notices.

Learn more from:

LightMode

Lumos Helmet ($134)

Lumos

Definitely deserving of a mention if only for its sleek design, the Lumos helmet features integrated brake and turn signals in the form of LED lights. The handlebar remote is unobtrusive and lasts for months on a single charge, and the rear lights turn on automatically thanks to a set of on-board sensors that detect braking. Lumos plans to start shipping the helmets to Kickstarter backers in August, having already missed the initial May deadline. Fingers crossed.

Pre-order now from:

Lumos

Fusar Mohawk ($400)

Fusar Smart Helmet Thumb

The Mohawk is a camera, tracker, and emergency alert system all rolled into one. It automatically records the last two minutes of audio and video, like an airplane’s black box. The waterproof housing and mount are made to fit on any kind of helmet, and the handlebar controls make it easy to keep your hands on the bars, as do the optional wrist-based mounts. Due to placement, the Mohawk obviously doesn’t function as a unit for hands-free calling, but the kit does come with a Bluetooth headset. Although the official Indiegogo campaign ended in December, pre-orders are ongoing, with the first orders expected to ship soon. Again, fingers crossed.

Pre-order it now from:

Indiegogo

Sena 10C ($281)

Sena 10C Thumb

The Sena 10C combines a camera and Bluetooth communication in a single device, one that mounts to the side of a helmet. A boom or wired mic plugs into the unit for sound, and it even features a built-in FM radio tuner should you decide to skirt your smartphone or other Bluetooth-enabled piece of gear. Sena’s universal intercom system is included, too, and helps connect four riders up to a mile apart. It doesn’t automatically record like the aforementioned Mohawk, but it does have a video yagging feature. Simply touching the camera button prompts it to capture 60 seconds of past, present, and future footage in three minute-long clips.

Buy it now from:

Amazon

Be-Link ($50)

Be-Link Thumb

The BE-Link isn’t a helmet but a convenient add-on that works with any helmet. It’s essentially a pair of wired headphones that you can install in any helmet with a die-cut Velcro cradle or the BE-Link Kradle mount. One of those two options will work on pretty much every helmet on the market, which means you can add Bluetooth to your rig, or quickly transfer it between helmets. For instance, since you’re supposed to replace your bike helmet every three years, this would save you a few bucks. After all, you should have to buy a new helmet every couple years just to get the latest smart features.

Buy it now from:

Amazon