Sena continues to develop its line of smart helmets with the new Outstar jet helmet—although, like most of Sena’s lineup, it isn’t really that smart.
For decades, a motorcycle helmet protected your head, nothing more. However, with the rise of mobile technology, we’re now seeing the rise of “smart helmets,” with built-in electronics offering navigation, communication and even entertainment options (music streaming, mostly).
In the past 10 years or so, there have been several high-profile startups that offered flashy smart helmets with cutting-edge built-in tech. The most famous example is Skully, which caused much ballyhoo with its Silicon Valley-style management. Unfortunately, Skully has been plagued by years of controversy, including accusations the founders blew the original budget on strippers and exotic cars, instead of bringing their digitally-augmented helmet to production. Other smart helmet manufacturers haven’t faced the same wild accusations, but they’ve all basically come and gone, with no real impact on the market.
Except for Sena, that is. Sena’s secret? It’s building smart helmets that are really nothing more than affordable, Chinese-made helmets with Sena’s existing mobile communication technology built in. For years, Sena offered mobile comm units that attached to a wide variety of motorcycle helmets, thanks to universal glue-on or clamp-on mounts. These comm units had Bluetooth connectivity to mobile devices, allowing you to make and receive calls through the unit’s microphone and speakers (which are Velcro’d into the helmet interior). They also allow you to listen to turn-by-turn navigation via the Bluetooth link, and typically have FM radio capability. Of course, they also allow rider-to-rider conversations with other motorcyclists using comm units.
Sena’s Momentum smart helmets offer the same capability as this comm set, adding action camera capability or in-helmet noise cancellation as well. That isn’t the case with this new Outstar jet helmet, though.
Sena’s marketing says “Thanks to Advanced Noise Control™, ambient riding noise is reduced, resulting in less audio interference on the intercom.” That doesn’t sound like there’s in-helmet noise cancellation; the Outstar’s open-face design probably makes that tricky or even impossible. You don’t get the mesh communication capability of the Momentum helmets, either. Instead, the Outstar offers a two-way HD intercom system, with Bluetooth 3.0 integration for smartphone connectivity and jog-dial control (this might be Sena’s best feature).
Connectivity range is a half mile, or 800 metres. It has a retractable sun visor, a three-hour charge time, and fifteen-hour talk time. The shell is basic polycarbonate ABS; it’s available in small, medium, large and extra-large sizes, in either white or matte black. The helmet comes with a quick-release buckle as standard. At this point it’s ECE-certified, but there’s no word on DOT certification on the website (that could be why there’s only Euro pricing, €199, at this point). The Outstar comes with a five-year warranty.
Basically, it’s just a jet helmet with a comm system that’s built into the shell—it doesn’t do anything you couldn’t already do by clamping a Sena comm system to another jet helmet. However, this design could be more weatherproof than a standard Sena comm set, and should certainly be more streamlined.