Virtual reality and augmented reality—when VR elements are overlaid on the real world—have had a faltering start over the last few years. However, the launch of heavily promoted devices like Apple’s Vision Pro or Meta’s Quest suggest they’re maturing into genuinely useful technologies, and inevitably there are suggestions they could somehow be incorporated into motorcycling.

Augmented reality is essentially a development of what used to simply be called a head-up display, overlaying information over your normal field of vision. That idea has been tried several times with helmets before. BMW showed an AR motorcycle helmet back in 2016, and this year revealed prototype AR driving glasses, but the slow pace of development is illustrated by the fact that the German company demonstrated prototype AR glasses more than two decades ago in 2003 and an AR automobile windshield in 2011. As long ago as 2002, it experimented with HUD helmets for drivers in its F1 race team. The technology is there, but questions remain over whether the customers are.

That isn’t stopping Yamaha from working on the same concept, though, and a new patent shows how it’s considering incorporating AR into a motorcycle helmet. Yamaha’s interest in AR also dates back several years. In 2015, the PES2 electric sportbike concept was accompanied by an augmented reality helmet that worked rather like the passthrough of the Apple Vision Pro. It incorporated a Sony mixed-reality headset that covered the rider’s eyes and used stereo cameras to convey images of the outside world to screens inside, adding AR graphics where needed. But that was nearly a decade ago and there’s still no Yamaha AR helmet available for purchase (or a Yamaha electric sportbike, for that matter).

The company’s latest patent around the idea thankfully ditches the idea of completely covering your eyes with screens. Computers crash occasionally, and if that type of AR headset did so at highway speeds then you would crash too. Instead it’s taking a more HUD-like approach, with clear lenses that you look through but which can also carry computer-generated images and information in your line of sight.

It’s that “line of sight” element that the new patent takes aim at, because Yamaha recognizes that you don’t keep your head still. Lean forward on a sportbike and you’ll look through the upper part of the visor. Sit back on a cruiser and you’ll see through a section much lower down. And additionally we are constantly moving while riding, which makes life even more inconvenient for HUD designers. If AR images are to be successfully overlaid onto your vision, not only must the helmet have external cameras to monitor what’s happening in front of it, but internal ones to check where your eyes are focused.

Yamaha’s design has as many as four tiny cameras pointing back toward you (two for each eye) mounted in the rim of the AR glasses behind the visor. These work in conjunction with infrared light to figure out where each eye is looking so the system can decide where to position the images it’s superimposing on the outside world. The patent doesn’t go into detail about the type of information that would be conveyed, but it is specific about the design being aimed at motorcycle use and shows several configurations for different helmet types, both open-face and full-face. It also says that other helmet wearers—from pilots to baseball players—might be able to benefit from the technology, but only in passing to ensure the patent’s coverage is as wide as possible.

Are AR helmets just around the corner then? The technology is, without doubt, progressing to the point where it’s possible, but whether customers are really willing to reach into their wallets to buy it is much less certain.

This article was first published on Cycle World. Read the original article here.