Heads-up displays go from cockpits to helmets

Soon, recreational motorcyclists will be able to take advantage of data projected into their line of sight.

Fighter pilots have long been able to view flight data projected onto jet windshields within their line of sight. Soon recreational motorcyclists and bicyclists will be able to take advantage of that technology.

Motion Research, a Seattle company former race car driver Dominic Dobson founded in 1993, said it will begin selling an inexpensive information display system next spring that attaches to a motorcycle helmet.

The SportVue head-mounted display will allow riders to see speed, revolutions per minute and gear position without taking their eyes off the road. The system gathers speed information from a global-positioning satellite receiver attached to the rear of the helmet.


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The design, based on a patent co-developed by Tom Furness, one of the pioneers of head-mounted display technology, uses a lens and mirror and backlit liquid crystal display to give the viewer the illusion that the information displayed in the periphery of one eye is projected in the distance.

Dobson founded Motion Research when he was racing Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Formula One cars, and his initial idea was to use the display technology for race car drivers. But the cost of producing such displays was prohibitively high a decade ago. He retired in 1998 and recently picked the idea up again, because the costs of the technology have fallen significantly.

"We realized we could build it far more cheaply today," he said. "Not much changed in the technology itself. What happened was the cost of manufacturing changed."

Today, he said, the technology is beginning to appear in the consumer market, both in wearable systems and in some cars, such as certain models of the Cadillac, with systems that project driving information onto the windshield.

But Motion Research will be the first company to attempt a truly low-cost consumer application. The price of the motorcycle SportVue will range from $249 to $349.

The bicycle version of Sportvue, which will be introduced sometime after the motorcycle system, will project speed, distance traveled and heart rate information, like current cyclometers, and range from $150 to $199, Dobson said. He said the company was also in discussions with helmet manufacturers to integrate the display systems into helmets.

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