Speaker helmets and aftermarket add-ons are nothing new to snowsports, but they’ve never been particularly convenient. In-line remotes and their tiny buttons aren’t the greatest match for snow gloves, and having a separate audio component can be annoying when putting the helmet on or taking it off. If that’s not a ready-made pitch for a crowdfunding campaign, I don’t know what is.
Unit-1 wants to solve those problems with good design. They’ve created Soundshield, a helmet that includes a pair of detachable wireless headphones. The team came up with the idea in September of 2015, and it’s been refined since then into what looks like a pretty ingenious gadget. Instead of going over the head, the band of the headphones slots into the back of the helmet, with the cups filling up the ear holes on the helmet. The frame of the headphones slots under the helmet, giving them a snug fit that ensures they won’t go flying off during a wipeout. But, the headphones aren’t required for safety — if you’re only interested in the sounds of nature that day, the helmet is safe to use without the headphones. Vice versa also holds — once you’re off the slopes, the headphones can be used independently of the helmet.
The headphones have standard 40 mm drivers with wireless Bluetooth connectivity to remove the hazard of wires. But, the real touch of genius is in how the headphones are controlled. The team is made up of extreme sports enthusiasts, and they know well enough that trying to control music while in full gear isn’t easy. On the Soundshield headphones, everything is big and simple. A huge dial on one of the cups controls volume. The inside of the dial is a huge button — one tap is either play/pause or accept call, two taps is track forward, three taps is track back, and a long press will start Bluetooth pairing.
It’s a pretty cool idea, but it’s not perfect. The headphones are only rated IPX4 against water. That makes them splash-resistant, so while they’ll be solid for skateboarders and BMX bikers, skiers and snowboarders might want to be wary taking them out in more slushy conditions, just in case of a fall. And, while there is a microphone for taking calls, there’s no feature to use those mics to let in some level of background noise (granted, that’s not an easy feature to implement).
The current design of the helmet meets safety standards for extreme sports, thanks to a 3 mm ABS plastic shell and 20 to 35 mm EPS liner on the inside for cushioning. There are two forward slots to take in air, with six slots up top to act as vents — in other words, the Soundshield should do a pretty good job as a helmet, too.
Unit 1 is in the middle of their Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. They’re looking for $50,000, and as of now, have secured over $36,000 from 201 backers with a little over two weeks to go. Right now, you can preorder a Soundshield helmet with a $190 contribution, with shipping scheduled for this December. Four colorways are available — black, black/yellow, white/olive, and teal/grey.
The usual crowdfunding warning applies — shipping delays are always a possibility, and Indiegogo still has Soundshield tagged in the prototype stage. The expectation is that the campaign money will push the helmet into production, but there could always be unforeseen challenges. Hopefully not, though — a December release would be pretty good timing for all those snowboarders and skiers.