When did you buy your first smartphone? Were you in line with me on the first day of iPhone availability, or did you wait until the platforms multiplied and matured? Where are you on the early adopter curve? Do you relish the bleeding edge, or do you prefer to let someone cut a trail for you? I ask this because we’re at a similar juncture in motorcycling. The NUVIZ head-up display (HUD), the first HUD built specifically for motorcycling, is hitting the market, and the way we gather information while riding a motorcycle is about to change. Are you ready to jump in?

For those who are unfamiliar with HUDs, they are a means of delivering information via a translucent display which allows the rider/driver/pilot to view information without looking away from the road. The technology has been used for decades in fighter jets and more recently in cars in which the data is projected onto the windshield. The challenge for motorcycling has been the location of the rider’s eyes inside of a helmet and not behind a fixed windshield.

NUVIZ on helmet

There’s no ignoring the NUVIZ’s size, but it packs a ton of technology. Although the translucent prism looks like it could interfere with the rider’s line of sight, it fits nicely just below the rider’s primary field of vision.

The NUVIZ unit attaches to the chin bar of a rider’s helmet, placing the translucent optical prism housing slightly below the rider’s right eye. The location of the prism is below the main field of vision, keeping it from blocking the rider’s primary view, but enabling the rider, with only a slight tilt of the eye, to view a virtual screen which appears to float 13 feet ahead. Compared to the traditional location of instruments on the motorcycle dash or handlebar, the amount of eye movement and refocusing required to view the screen is minimal – and this is the real benefit of a HUD. Before delving into the advanced information features, let’s just consider the act of checking the speedometer, where the NUVIZ HUD takes the rider’s eye off the road for a significantly shorter time and requires no movement of the head.

The 800 x 480 pixel viewer currently delivers information via five different screens which are controlled by a little remote mounted to the left handlebar. All of the screens show the time in the top right corner and the NUVIZ battery status in the bottom right. The screen you’ll probably use the most is the Speedometer which shows the current speed in large numbers in the center of the screen. Above the speed, the speed limit is shown. If you’re exceeding it, a red circle surrounds the speed limit, giving an instant visual which can also be augmented by a warning sound set to a user-preferred amount over the posted limit – a boon when you’re on unfamiliar roads.

NUVIZ remote

The NUVIZ remote (top) can be mounted on multiple bikes via the included hardware. The buttons on the left correspond with the icons on the left side of the screen. The central toggle switches between screens with short flicks, while long presses control the speakers’ volume.

A quick flick down on the remote’s toggle switches to the Maps screen where you’ll be given the same speed information at the top of the screen. If you’re following directions, you’ll also see which way your next turn will be and how far. At the bottom of the screen, the distance remaining and time remaining are shown. The central map’s level of zoom can be set to the rider’s preferences by the remote.

The next flick down on the remote brings up the Rides screen where the rider’s saved routes can be shown – along with gas stations. Choosing a route is a simple click or two away, and once selected will be shown on the map. When entering new routes or the address of a destination, the NUVIZ smartphone app provides an interface that is much more flexible than the screen on the HUD. The app also allows riders to access photos captured by the included camera while riding, and view ride statistics. Future capabilities can be added to NUVIZ through a software update function within the app.

NUVIZ rendered POV

This POV rendering shows how the NUVIZ screen is unobtrusive until the rider glances at it. This map screen delivers the motorcycle’s speed, the speed limit, how many miles until the next turn, the current time, and the fact that video has been recording for 23 seconds – all without visual clutter.

The Music and Phone screens are accessed with the same toggle, and they show song/artist information and caller/number data. Both of these fields can be delved into deeper through button clicks to select songs or address book entries, but we recommend pulling over first.

Those aren’t all of the NUVIZ’s features, though. A camera capable of 8 megapixel stills and 1080p 30fps video resides on the bottom of the optical housing. The camera itself is ball-mounted, allowing for it to be adjusted to give the correct view for how the unit itself is mounted to the rider’s helmet. As with the other functions, the camera is controlled via a dedicated button on the control unit, with a short press taking a photo and a long press starting/stopping video recording.

NUVIZ still photo

Here is an example of a photo captured on a ride with NUVIZ. Click on the image to see it in a higher resolution. Look under the MO logo to see the thumb triggering the camera.

Using the NUVIZ only took a couple hours to become familiar with the controls. As with all GPS devices, it takes a little while to accustom the eye to reading the visual language that the manufacturer has created, but I quickly adapted to the NUVIZ. After previously using only voice prompts for navigation when riding, having a map within an easy glance is quite helpful when getting from one location to the next in an urban setting. Although I did wish that the voice prompts included the street name, it is available at the bottom of the map screen. On longer rides, the listing of mileage to the next turn helps to pass the time. Since I spend tons of time on short hop errands where I know where I’m going, the speedometer screen is my most commonly used view, and I’ve quickly grown to depend on it. Additionally, having the name/number of incoming calls appear before my eye makes it easy to decide if I need to take it or can wait until I get home.

Up until this point, I’ve avoided the elephant on the chin bar because I wanted to address what are the strong points of this new technology, but now we need to consider the NUVIZ’s size. For some people, the 5.8-in. x 2.3-in. main body (3.9 in. tall on the optical housing) will be a deal killer. Yes, the unit is large. However, at speed, the wind resistance isn’t any more pronounced than mounting a GoPro off the side of a helmet. I’ve noticed a little more wind noise at highway speeds, but since I wear ear plugs on the open road, this isn’t a problem. Around town, I don’t experience any difference in how my helmet feels. For those who worry about the effects of crashing with the NUVIZ, it is designed to tear away on impact, thanks to very shallow mounting screws.

NUVIZ mount

With the purchase of accessory mounting kits, owners can mount their NUVIZ to all of their helmets.

Why is the unit so big? One reason is the large, replaceable 3250-mAh battery. (This capacity is claimed to deliver 8 hours of light use and 3.5 – 6.5 hours of heavy photo and video use.) The other reason is that a ton of functionality is packed inside the unit. The housing contains an ambient light sensor, gyroscope, barometer, magnetometer, accelerometer, camera, plus Bluetooth and wifi connectivity. Since this is a first-generation product, I expect it to get smaller over time. However, users won’t be limited to just the feature set that comes with the NUVIZ. The company has already promised to update the unit to include communication features by the end of the year. (As it stands, you can connect it via Bluetooth to Sena and Cardo devices.)

As an admittedly tech-focused user, I’m heaping a bunch of praise on the NUVIZ, but it’s not without flaws. The boot-up process takes a while and requires input from the remote to begin regular function. My workaround for the lengthy startup time is to quickly press the power button to turn off the screen and save battery when I’m only going to be off the bike for a bit, like when going into a store. Once I’m ready to ride again, the screen pops to life immediately when I press the button.

NUVIZ action shot

This photo gives a good representation of how the NUVIZ prism is under the rider’s primary view but easily seen with just a small shift of the eyes.

My biggest complaint about the NUVIZ has nothing to do with the HUD. Unfortunately, the sound level from the helmet speakers is too low to be easily heard at highway speed – particularly if you are wearing earplugs, as all riders should at those speeds. Around town the level works fine, but I have trouble hearing the directions above 65 mph. Usually, I can hear that directions are being given, so I simply glance at the screen to get the information. However, with all the focus on the device’s technology, this is a surprising oversight. Perhaps replacing the speakers/microphone with a third party set would solve the problem. For best audio performance, mount the speakers so that they are lightly touching your ear just over the canal.

NUVIZ is off to an impressive start with this first-generation implementation of HUD technology for motorcyclists. The visual display of information is top notch – particularly with the auto-dimming feature for varying light conditions. The functionality is clearly based on the essentials. Bells and whistles, like the communicator function, can be added via software update in the future. The video function is good for riders who like to record dash cam footage of their commutes or hero videos of their canyon exploits. The still camera produces crisp, well-exposed photos. Both the stills and the video display the quality one would expect from a sensor that small, making them comparable to many smartphone cameras.

The music and phone functions appear to be well thought out, though the microphone’s noise canceling is merely average compared to the quality of systems like the Sena 20S. Still, the heart of the NUVIZ is its display and how well it delivers the information a rider needs with the smallest change of eye position.

Sena 20S Motorcycle Bluetooth Communication System Review

The price for NUVIZ is a hefty $699. To me, that’s not surprising. Most tech fans are used to paying the early adopter tax frequently required of first-generation devices. In the future, I’m sure that the price – as well as the unit’s size – will shrink, but we’re not there yet. I firmly believe that, as the technology evolves, HUDs will become increasingly common for motorcyclists. For now, we have NUVIZ as the first company to hit the market with a motorcycle HUD. And it’s pretty dang cool! In a few years, we’ll look back on this moment as the dawn of a new technological era in motorcycling. I’m in. Are you?

  • john phyyt

    This tech is improving all the time. It should/will become integral with helmet in a short period of time. If I were google I would invest $500 million to aglomerate all this tech with a major Helmet manufacturer and get all the best brains working as a team to make one unbeatable “patented” product. This is like Edison’s Light Bulb. Everyone knows it is inevitable and will change the world, but someone needs to prove the application.

    • Kevin

      The entire global industry in motorcycle helmets sales is less than half that amount. Must have a helluva advertising strategy for getting suckers to open their wallets for unproven tech…besides, some nerd from Google with the appropriate “patron” will beat you to it at half the price.

  • Mahatma

    Is it only me who thinks this is taking away from the riding experience rather than adding to it?

    • SRMark

      I too like to keep it simple. This ain’t it.

    • Gee S

      No, it’s not just you.

      Unfortunately I am already over quota for rants which begin “No, it’s not just you” this month, so I shall have to take a pass. 😉

  • Matt Forero

    I like where they’re heading with this product, I ram mount my phone for GPS and it can be distracting to take my eyes that far off the road. I’d prefer a version without the camera since it’s nowhere near GoPro capability and it would save some weight. 30FPS on a motorcycle makes me want to puke anyway. Other than that seems ok for a first gen product.

  • Gee S

    Here’s the thing.

    The US Military — who invented these things — has identified a condition called ‘Attention Capture’. Think of it like Target Fixation, only on steroids.

    Essentially, your brain, which is pretty good at doing what it wants, not what you want it to, starts de-emphasizing actual reality happening outside the HUD in favor of the pretty color moving pictures put up by the HUD.

    In combat aircraft — and I’ve written about this — https://alwaysbusybeingborn.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/to-serve-man/ – the military has seen and documented declining pilot performance and has begun to deemphasize such systems, on the grounds that the distraction and minute cognitive delays translate into risk of injury or death.

    In the saddle, I’m all about focus and ability to respond.

    This seems like a step in the wrong direction, and could get me killed, frankly.

    Until the vendor of such a system can prove to me that they’ve done the research and can prove it doesn’t adversely affect rider performace, I want no part of one.

    • Rex

      So how is using a GPS and looking at it too much any different than what you describe? Isn’t that even worse since it is not in the direct field of view? So isn’t a bike-mounted GPS even worse than a helmet-mounted HUD unit? No. Why? Because while riding or going someplace new, they allow MORE attention to the road immediately ahead than to spending time searching for road signs and streets and addresses and constantly glancing down to check road speed.

      • Gee S

        Um. You know, your technological bias is showing.

        You’re absolutely right. Looking at a GPS too much IS worse.

        Which is why I don’t do that either when I’m on a motorcycle.

        One of my very good friends was luckly to survive an interstate highway accident when using one of the first motorcycle GPS units. During the three quarters of a second he looked down to check NAV he rear ended a disabled tractor trailer.

        I took the hint.

        I’m with Rule10b5 — I just ride the effing bike, thankyouverymuch.

        If I’m going somewhere new, I spend time with a map book beforehand and get a mental picture of my route. On the bike, I just ride.

        I don’t GPS, I don’t use cel phone or bluetooth communicator headsets. One of the primary reasons I ride is expressly to get away from technology. Companies that make systems like these standard on new bikes and cars will not be selling one to me.

        I just ride.

        • Wes Janzen

          Sounds like looking down for 3/4 of a second in that situation is a fault of judgment. But I guess if you can’t trust yourself to make good judgments, removing any and all forms of distraction is probably a good call. I’d suggest not riding too, if that’s the case.

          Unplugging I can understand, but that doesn’t make your arguments against the technology valid.

        • Jon Jones

          Great post.

        • Jeff S. Wiebe

          Any amount of time your attention is on the GPS/HUD, it isn’t on the rest of your ‘situation’. Whether or not one thinks this is a problem is another question.

        • therr850

          Sorry about your friend. I hope he came out okay. I would suggest he made one error and hope he learned to look further ahead as he drives or rides before looking away. To all riders, do not focus on the bumper in front of you.

    • Monty Dyer

      Agree.Maybe over time of using it,it might be an excellent add on to riding the bike more safely(?)…but I’m with ya on the idea of relying on that,instead of actually ‘seeing’ the reality aspect.Good post!Ride safe.

      Then of course,seeing that display size and position,maybe I’m making this too hard!Guess I’d actually have to try one for real opinion.;)

  • Scott Campbell

    A couple second distraction in a car is tolerated more vs a motorcycle or plane. HUD will become more prevalent but will involve the whole facesheild where you do not have to take a Quick glance down. Naviagation is great but just like music should be audio vs video until full face shield presentation is available.I am sure you are noticing more new cars with the iPad type screen moving higher up on the windshield vs looking down on your console. Just as the living room has moved into cars with TV’s, cup holders, music internet, etc., there is a limit on what addition stuff can be offered on a motorcycle.

  • Kevin

    Nope, fugly and WAY too big. Back to the design table fellas.

    • Tinwoods

      No, it’s not, and you’re one of those people who knows nothing about product development in regard to technology. You think that current laptops started out as slim and attractive as they were when they were first developed? And phones? TV?

      • Kevin

        Normally, I’d ignore an idiot like you. But, since you’ve offered your completely ignorant (hard fought, I’m sure) and myopically, ego-centric stupidity for consideration, perhaps an appropriate rejoinder is necessary.
        Suggesting, as you do, that someone you’ve never met, don’t know and will likely never know, that you “know” something (anything?), about themselves that you don’t shows you for the utter fool that you must be.
        P.S. It’s really FUGLY.

  • Rule10b5

    Can we please just ride the fucking motorcycle without trying to make it like the rest of daily life?

    • Jon Jones

      Just a great comment!

    • Wes Janzen

      The speedometer alone would be handy when commuting and the GPS as a HUD would be invaluable on long trips. Also, it’s arguably safer for the reasons mentioned when compared to current tech. I don’t know what you’re railing against, but I’m guessing it’s mobile phone use and other distractions, which I don’t really think this is in the same category. Or perhaps you’re just one of those people that argue against technology and bike gadgets like GPS. You can argue for the sake of arguing I guess, but those technologies like GPS have greatly improved my on the road experience and versus their paper predecessors, and kept me safer in the process as I’m not always looking down or pulling off to look at a map.

    • Robert Pandya

      Or – choose not to buy it and don’t curse out those who choose to try it?

      Crazy – I know.

  • JMDGT

    I cannot help but see this as a visual distraction.

  • Vrooom

    Is it cool, yes. Do I need it, no. I’d see myself buying it, using it a few times, then leaving it at home most rides. The GPS map is kind of cool, but there’s something to be said for a lack of distractions.

  • gunny 2shoes

    my old school multi-function capacity is limited to sirri voice commands, in foreign countries she’s my angel. here’s to keeping your eyes peeled.

  • ColoradoS14

    Interesting, I am sure that this is going to be a bigger part of the future of motorcycling and it is neat to watch as it develops. One thing I worry about is safety. Anytime you attach something to the helmet you are potentially compromising the shell and safety. I remember the tragic incident with former F1 driver Michael Schumacher where they determined that the GoPro mounted on his ski helmet may have contributed to the severity of his injuries. This sort of thing makes me worry about that as a possibility here.

    • Spinkick

      They said its designed to rip off easily on an accident.

  • blansky

    I think a lot of pros and cons of these type of things are age related. Generally the younger you are the more you love tech and feel comfortable with it. Older people think lots of it is just gadgets and toys. As for safety, is this better or worse than quick head movements to see gauges. Possibly better, but there is also probably going to be more stuff to look at.

    Another problem is humans are unable to multitask, no matter how much we want to think we can, even talking on a hands free phone in a car, our brains, for milliseconds and seconds jump back and forth between driving and engaging with the call. Our speeds change, our mental focus fluctuates, in short, our brain goes to another place.

    As a practical matter and as someone who wears progressive lenses or someone who wears bifocals lenses, and who must raise or lower their heads to get the focal sweet spot of what they’re seeing/reading close, medium or far, how is it possible to read the display text, which I would guess is close up obviously, when you’re head is positioned to see distances of the roadway. Since the text is in the lower part of the screen, it may or may not be in a focused position and you may be constantly trying to adjust your helmet to try to get the text into focus. Not sure on this part.

  • Jason Haas

    I can also imagine having a HUD in your helmet that helps detect things on the road that maybe you wouldn’t have caught on your own. Predicting traffic patterns and such from machine learning algorithms. The same technology that is going into self-driving cars could probably be adapted to make riding safer.

    I agree that adding another thing to look at is distracting, but if it helps you be safer on the road, it could be a game changer.

  • Rich

    OK, it’s cool and probably distracting, but you get one, and then for some reason, you need a new helmet…does NUVIZ support the removal and replacement of the adhesive stickum they use to attach the base to the chin bar? At the very least, you’d hope this $700 unit will outlast the brand new helmet you buy to attach it to in the first place….

    • Evans Brasfield

      If you have multiple helmets, you can buy additional mounting plates. If you want to change to a new helmet, you have the option of buying a new plate or removing the plate and mounting it with double stick tape. (3M VHB tape works well in my experience.)