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Review: Forcite’s MK1S smart helmet stays on your head, not in your face

A black motorcycle helmet rests on the seat of an electric motorcycle in the woods
Enlarge / Forcite’s smart helmet doesn’t use flashy augmented reality, and it’s probably all the better for that.

Tim Stevens

After years of vaporware concepts and failed startups, a legitimate smart helmet has finally made it to the market. The company (from Australia) is Forcite, and the helmet is the MK1S, which promises to not only handle navigation and media streaming but also bring a little AI to the party, too. I’ve been living with one for over a month now, and while the experience hasn’t been perfect, it’s good enough to make me bullish on this technology—and the company.

Let me start by saying I’m a rider who doesn’t like distractions. I’ve reviewed a number of in-helmet communication systems over the years, plus various other motorcycle gadgets, and none have ever made their way into my regular rotation. I’m surrounded by so much tech all the time that, for me, hopping on a motorcycle is an escape.

Given that, I was skeptical that I’d really be enamored of a smart helmet that talks and blinks at me. Color me surprised, then, that I actually enjoyed my time with it.

Unboxing and setup

The MK1S comes in a large, multi-layered box, feeling very much like a premium consumer electronics device—as it should, given its $1,099 MSRP. But before you can use the thing, you have to install the Forcite app, which is available on iOS and Android.

Once installed, the app guides you through pairing your phone to both the helmet and the small wireless thumb controller that mounts on your bike’s handlebars. That part was easy enough. You’re then prompted to put on the helmet so you can be dazzled with an acoustic fanfare and swelling of lights.

It’s an impressive demonstration of what this lid can do. The sound quality is good. However, my sense of marvel was squashed when, moments later, the app got stuck mid-way through the tutorial. I killed it and tried again, only to see it hang again in the same place. That left me having to read through the manual, on paper even, a decidedly pedestrian introduction to this flashy gadget.

The SD card slot and USB port.
Enlarge / The SD card slot and USB port.

Tim Stevens

The manual did teach me some important things, like the locations of the power/pair button, the USB-C port, and the microSD card slot, all of which are tucked up under the chin in a place that you likely won’t spot on your own.

Secondly, the four buttons on the wireless controller are not quite intuitive. For example, tap the unlabeled middle button twice to skip the current track and three times to skip back.

The biggest challenge, though, is deciphering the MK1S’s light show. The helmet communicates with you via an array of LEDs built into the chin bar, just below the visor. This is a far more subtle solution than the full-on augmented reality display that the Skully AR-1 used, for example, but it also brings more nuance to the experience.

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