Skully CEO Marcus Weller stood in front of an crowd of customers that shelled out $1,500 to be one of the first recipients of the company's helmet with a heads up display and rear-facing camera to answer their questions. A few weeks ago Weller sent those backers a video message explaining that their helmets would be delayed until the fall. Now he was about to talk to those people face to face to address their concerns and show off the helmet's companion app for the first time. It's a talk he's prepared to give in multiple cities around the world.
Gallery: Skully Helmet | 9 Photos
Gallery: Skully Helmet | 9 Photos
It's hard to point to a crowdfunding campaign that's shipped on time. Pebble and Oculus Rift were both late. Regardless of the reasons why something is delayed, backers get angry and sometimes those running the campaign disappear behind updates, mass emails and Facebook posts. Weller didn't do that, he told Engadget, "people online chewed me a new one and rightfully so."
Weller decided to explain why the Skully was being delayed directly to his customers with a two week world tour traveling to 12 cities including New York, Boston, London and Sydney. "You know what, these people backed us. They put $1,500 down a significant amount of time in advance and I want to go meet them. I want to thank them for that." Weller said. "If they have complaints or are upset about the shipping, I want to address it face-to-face."
The first event was in San francisco. After answering a bunch of technical questions about the camera, display and battery a backer finally asked the question every had on their mind, "when will it ship?" After the laughter died down, Weller told the room, "I don't want to tell you something that will make you feel warm and fuzzy." The helmet will ship to all backers by the end of the year. Weller told Engadget that those shipments will begin in the fall.
Weller says that part of the reason the for the delay is that the company has invested in manufacturing. The helmets will be built in the Flextronics factory in Milpitas in Silicon Valley. But there's also this desire to make to keep making it better.
The helmet will now get a carbon fiber inlay on the inside to enhance crash protection. Considering the idea of the helmet was born out of an accident, it's not hard to see why the team is willing to hold off a launch to safeguard the brains of its customers. The finished device will be DOT and ECE (the MotoGP standard) safety certified. "Our helmet is an extremely safe helmet. It vastly surpasses what we need to do from a shock absorption perspective," said Weller. "When we ship this, it will be the most complex consumer device on the planet."
Hyperbole aside, the app demoed at the San Francisco event, like the helmet itself, is still a work in progress. It currently syncs routes you've saved in the app to the helmet. If a rider finds themselves outside of cell range, the app will continue to offer turn-by-turn directions. It also works with Spotify and will automatically start playing your favorite playlist when you put on the Skully. The app was shown to people while they demoed the helmet and frankly, they didn't seem to care that much. They were far more interested in the helmet itself and for good reason.
I tried the helmet this week. As a daily rider on the hectic roads of San Francisco, its benefits are immediately apparent. You can see what's coming up behind you and that's amazing. But it's not quite there yet. When you're riding a motorcycle, for the sake of safety, any additional element you add to that ride needs to be out of beta. It needs to be ready.
Weller and Skully want to be ready. The company wants to launch the safest and most technologically advanced helmet on the planet in the fall. If not, Weller might be back on the road again.