Situational Awareness: Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System vs. Sportvue

Way bigger budget, way bigger needs--controlling weapons and sensors while flying a fighter plane in combat--result in way better head-up display.

by Bruce Carroll; David Imanaka

THE VITALS: SPORTVUE; DISPLAY TYPE: Backlit liquid crystal Data displayed: Gear, speed, rpms. Racing versions, available for bicycles as well, include lap time, performance data and other user-programmable functions COST: $270 and upBruce Carroll; David Imanaka

Goose died. Goose died because Maverick couldn't get the enemy plane into the 20-degree field-of-view of his head-up display (HUD) and thus couldn't establish a radar lock to fire his missiles. True, the Stratocasters scream less sonorously in real-life fighter cockpits, but when it comes to dogfights, Top Gun gets it right: Position is everything. That's why U.S. Air Force and Navy pilots using the new Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) have such an advantage. The system projects key data--air speed, altitude, orientation, the location of enemy fighters and more--onto the inside of the helmet visor. Unlike current HUDs, which are small screens fixed in place above the instrument panel, the JHMCS moves; the pilot's head motions, magnetically tracked, can be set to steer weapons and sensors. The targeting cone blossoms to 360 degrees, so pilots are able to fire at whatever they can see. This year, for the first time, recreational motorcyclists and bicyclists can get a taste of the same technology with the SportVue helmet, developed by MotionResearch. The altitude is lower, but the idea is the same: Display vital data in front of the operator's eyes--focused well in front of the rider--eliminating the potentially dangerous distraction of looking down. Mounted to any off-the-shelf helmet visor, SportVue's miniature LCD screen displays speed, gear and engine rpms--and other user-programmable functions in the race versions--receiving data wirelessly from sensors mounted on the bike.