The company unveiled new communication and safety features at CES
As more cars come off the assembly line with voice-activated entertainment and communications suites, cyclists have come to hope for those options on their bikes as well. One of the new entrants in this market, Coros, has debuted the LINX Smart Cycling Helmet. Unlike other Bluetooth-enabled devices, it doesn’t require any headphones or earbuds.
Instead, it transmits your songs, calls, and alerts right into the inner ear, using patented bone conduction technology to make the package as hands-free as you’d expect in your car. Riders won’t need to remove their hands from the handlebars because the wireless remote mounts on the front of the bike.
The system syncs with your mobile, and comes with an app (iOS and Android) to handle GPS, directions, and voice controls, as well as syncs to other fitness apps.
The company raised $319,765 on Kickstarter to fund its initial production run, at $199.99 per kit and available for order through their website at the end of this month. It comes in four colors and two sizes, large and medium, and a USB charger is included as well.
“We felt that cyclists should have the same comforts and amenities that drivers nowadays enjoy,” Coros CEO Vincent Xiong tells Geektime, meaning “seamless, wireless access to their personal music and calls without distraction so they can focus on the road.”
Hands-free is the key here, since it’s a lot harder to try and handle a phone when on a bike, as there’s no cup holder or side seat to toss the device over to when you need your hands on the wheel.
One thing users have said they want as an added feature in this respect is caller ID, which would read off who is calling so a rider can elect to take the call or ignore it and focus on the ride.
To avoid jostling and tangles, and the zoning out that a headset can induce while muffling ambient noises, the helmet conducts the sound through your ear bones, allowing you to hear outside noises, and also gives you an extra level of privacy. It’s discerning enough, as former President Chuck Frizelle told Digital Trends last year, that, “You can listen to music, and it will fade out while you get your next turn,” so you can hear the directions being read off.
While freeing users of the need to worry about wires, or wireless devices falling out, the bone conduction technology has one other advantage: No waxy buildup from extended earbud use. (As a PSA, my doctor recommends going at least twice a year for an ear cleaning if you use earbuds a lot, as I do.)
Coros, though it’s the first company to use this particular technology, does not expect to be the last. Other companies have built smart helmets, though usually, the Bluetooth uses traditional speakers and earpieces, or advertised bone conductive audio kits that can clip onto headgear. That means, though, you’re carrying extra wearables with you that have to be fastened on and not fall off, unlike with the LINX.
Now that integrated bone conduction is a known quantity, though, Frizelle expects to see other companies trying to build their own such helmets. One could imagine it for motorcycle riders, too, both those with and without visors on their helmets.
New communications and safety features at CES
What’s next for Coros? In the near term, Xiong says they’ll be offering a $49 group communications system sold via the website in March. With it, multiple riders can stay linked together in a group chat through the helmets. The system is in beta testing now, and is ideal for marathoners and family or friends on outings who want to keep in touch during a ride without stopping.
Further down the road, in July, the company will debut a cycling radar, of which a prototype is on display at CES, for safer riding. (The system already has an impact sensor that will send out a panic alert if you have a really jarring accident.) “It will be two parts,” he says, incorporating “a display unit that goes on the front handle bar of the bicycle and a radar sensor that is mounted to the rear of the bike.” It has a range of 100 meters. The display unit will beep when another vehicles approaches, and shows both how fast an approaching vehicle is coming and how far away it is. Meanwhile, the sensor unit automatically lights up when detecting a vehicle, or darkness, and projects “a laser LED warning bike lane” to make riders more visible to cars.
Coros was launched in 2016 and is based in Virgnia, having relocated from Redmond, Washington.