Features

April 28, 2016

Forcite Helmet Systems: The Australian duo making you into a Marvel character

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Intelligent sports helmet technology company Forcite Helmet Systems are plotting the path to becoming major players in the smart helmet technology space.

Co-founded by Julian Chow and Alfred Boyadgis, the company is currently sitting just under the radar at the moment but are creating and developing products with global potential.

Out of the company’s Sydney headquarters, they develop small, high-resolution cameras for helmet brands and manufacturers in action sports. The company’s HD camera and computer systems are embeddable into any extreme sports helmet, they are non-invasive, exceptionally lightweight at less than 50 grams and have the computation to do live streaming, image stabilising, stitching and vision compression and that’s just one part of the picture.

How it translates for the end user, Forcite’s comprehensive technology incorporates shareable features such as performance tracking, live communication and statistics. It is an upgradable IOT – internet-of-things – product which means it invites users to share experiences, and network and connect with other people wearing the helmets to really drive the product’s shareability.

Sports Business Insider spoke with Forcite’s CEO Alfred Boyadgis and firstly asked why they are developing such an epic product. “Right now a lot of technology around video or if you call it a category ‘intelligent video,’ like 360 degree video, virtual reality stereo video, regular HD video, that’s all in the category of pretty much sensors and stitching. So we want to develop a system which is compatible with all of those cameras and as we develop new products we can introduce realities to people. When you put on this helmet and record this really cool experience we want to give you the purest point-of-view of being that person on that run.”

LIMITLESS POSSIBILITIES

With the amount of vision a user could capture it opens up numerous sharing, community, interactive, even interconnected, possibilities. One possibility that is not lost on the company is any vision gathered by people wearing helmets with Forcite’s technologies could be viewable with virtual reality headsets, and as Boyadgis explains, “the way a group of people would edit something is very different to the way one person edits something and shares it compared to two people and so on. So they all need their own ways of collecting and combining content and sharing it with their friends. The more people, the more interesting the footage and the more collective the data. For example, if I had a big team of sports players and they all had the camera systems on and I was watching it at home I could then switch to the points of view of all the players, I could put a virtual reality headset on and see what it’s like to be that person in that match and hear who they’re talking to and what they’re saying back and you get this feeling of being there which is what we really want to target as well as building something that is incredibly small.

Forcite Helmet Systems' technology is non-invasive and includes GPS, HD camera and shareable features such as live communication where users can talk to each other on the slopes. Image: Supplied

Forcite Helmet Systems’ technology is non-invasive and includes GPS, HD camera and shareable features such as live communication where users can talk to each other on the slopes. Image: Supplied

“The other part of it is connecting other types of wearables to the product. Our vision of a smart helmet is something you’ve bought and that is the first platform for moving through new types of technology as they come out. It’s an interconnected IOT product which is very different from the philosophy which current smart helmet people are doing. We want to let the customer build what they want,” Boyadgis said.

IT’S IN THE HELMET

In Forcite’s infancy, the company realised that they lacked the scale in trying to build their own helmets and perfecting the precision that helmet manufacturers go through in developing their helmets’ ergonomics, safety ratings, impact ratios and designs, as Boyadgis commented, “it makes you appreciate the thought and effort that goes into helmet design.”

The company pivoted and took the route of producing and licensing their technology to helmet manufacturers, Boyadgis added. “What we do is we prepare a compact computational platform for wearables. Each version of the Forcite system is slightly different from the next one. We package it, seal it, get it all in a module which fits into their (manufacturer) regular helmets and then they have a smart helmet!”

COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

The space that Forcite operates in sees them come up in similar conversations as companies such as GoPro, Skully and 360Fly but the comparisons do not ring true, as Boyadgis explained their competitive advantage over those businesses. “For smart helmets it’s really how we create the user experience and not compromise on safety.

Force CEO Alfred Boyadgis: "We make an intelligent computer system which is essentially a GoPro on steroids with a bazooka or two strapped on."

Forcite Helmet Systems CEO Alfred Boyadgis: “We make an intelligent computer system which is essentially a GoPro on steroids with a bazooka or two strapped on.” Image: Supplied

“We make an intelligent computer system which is essentially a GoPro on steroids with a bazooka or two strapped on. GoPro is a standalone action camera system. We have a different type of platform where you can add more “fighter pilot” like features such as comms. Essentially Forcite wants to build you into an X-wing pilot,” Boyadgis enthused.

FUTURES

Forcite are currently concentrating on getting their technology into snow sports helmets before looking at moving into other extreme sports such as motocross and motorcycling.

Boyadgis said, “we’re in no rush at all to put a motorcycle helmet out there. We get many requests asking us, ‘when is your motorcycling one coming out?’ Which is good because the market is hot for it. But for us we want to create a superb product that people are going to really enjoy at a very competitive price point. Plus we are working on some epic features we can’t talk about yet for that line.”

The aim is to have their technology inside helmets before the end of the year as there is significant interest. “Our marketing isn’t huge at the moment, we’re sitting under the radar and that’s the way we want to be at the moment. We’ll ramp that up quite soon. But at our prime, we were easily getting a hundred queries a week just for snow sports and for every two snow sport queries there was a motorcycling person going, ‘what do you have,’” Boyadgis said.

That could be helped along as the company is in the process of a capital raising and Boyadgis explained. “We’re going to embark on it. I was hopeful for a Series A capital raising to expand the technology which I’m still very hopeful for but that’s still not till much later in the year. We’ve got the right amount of capital right now to do what we need to do.

“You want to keep it lean, fast and a smaller Series A raise will help us be a razor-sharp, fast team for the next two years or so and we’ll be generating our own revenue quickly.”

THE FINAL WORD

Finally it comes down to ensuring that each helmet embedded with Forcite’s technology creates a really cool user experience. The helmet has to be technologically advanced yet keeps the wearer safe, in short, it has to always be substantially useful. Boyadgis offered his philosophy on design and why Forcite are focused on being a user experience first company. “We won’t put anything in our product if we think it’s going to be a distraction of some kind, think of this analogy, if I buy an analogue watch it tells me the time as long as it ticks on my wrist but the secondary function of this watch is to be a fashionable item, now, if I go out and buy a Apple watch, for argument sake, the battery will die eventually thus it is not a very good item at telling the time. Yet! In my opinion the Apple watch looks great even when its off and is a statement more than a watch. My point is, if a helmet runs out of battery it should still be a delight to wear, light and performance focused plus look super slick.”

“That’s what we focus on, the entire cycle of from when I put on a helmet, when I turn it on and off, when it runs out of battery, when it’s charging, they’re all states when they have to stand alone as an effective product. And that’s what makes good design, add a dash of Nitro circus intensity and you’re onto a winner.”


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