Photo/IllutrationNS West Inc. worked with Shoei Co., a major motorcycle helmet manufacturer, to develop this smart helmet, seen in Hiroshima’s Naka Ward. (Kohei Kondo)

  • Photo/Illustraion

HIROSHIMA--A futuristic motorcycle helmet doubles as a GPS navigator, displaying data right before a rider's eyes.

Directions, distance to destinations, expected arrival times and more appear in the rider's view about 2 meters ahead of them on a 6-inch transparent heads-up display (HUD) installed in front of the wearer’s right eye.

The "smart helmet" comes with built-in speakers and other electronic devices, allowing the wearer to listen to music using a smartphone.

Riders use less eye movement to check the HUD than when using typical motorcycle navigators on the handlebars, or a smartphone, said its designer, car parts maker NS West Inc., based in Shobara, Hiroshima Prefecture.

As the display is overlaid with their view of the road, there's no need to glance away to check navigation or other data, enhancing safety, NS West said.

The helmet was exhibited in January at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, one of the world’s largest trade fairs for home electronics and information technology.

“We interviewed motorbike riders extensively while developing the product,” said NS West President Norio Minato. “It combines convenience with safety, elegance and other qualities. There is potential demand for those products, so we are banking on a (growing) market.”

NS West teamed with Shoei Co., a world leader in motorcycle helmets headquartered in Tokyo, to develop it. The firms hope to mass-produce the helmets and have them on the market by spring 2020.

The mainstay business of NS West, which makes items for carmakers Mazda Motor Corp. and Daihatsu Motor Co., is developing and manufacturing dashboard instruments and HUDs, devices that show navigation and other info on transparent plates or windshields.

NS West adapted its optical and electronic HUD technologies for use by motorcycle riders in the new helmets.

A smartphone-only app it co-developed with Navitime Japan Co. works in tandem with wireless communications to obtain and display location and other data.

NS West set about developing the smart helmet in 2015. It approached Shoei about collaborating and has been working with the leading high-end helmet firm on research and development that includes reducing the helmet's weight and the size of its display.

One of the company’s domestic rivals, Japan Display Inc., a major liquid crystal display panel manufacturer, is also working to develop a smart helmet product.

NS West, founded in 1982, operates plants in Shobara and Miyoshi, also in Hiroshima Prefecture. It projects a turnover of 13.5 billion yen ($122 million) for the year ending in March 2019.