One of the most promising emergent technologies is Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. Combine this with Digital Assistants (e.g. Siri, Google Now, Cortana etc.), the amplifying nature of the Internet, Virtual and Augmented Reality, and the opportunities become boundless.

Consider the number of interactions you have in a given day, how many are simply interactions with a service provider? Think about say, a check-up with your GP, call to an insurance agent, or parent-teacher consult. How much of “you” do you actually need for each of these meetings? Probably not as much as you expect.

Your GP certainly needs to see your physical telemetry, something that's easy enough with wearable technologies available today (blood sugar, BP, pulse, sleep, diet, weight & exercise patterns). But apart from that may simply question how things are at home, at work, with the family, and then prescribe medication or a course of action.

Imagine if you will that an AI avatar is programmed with enough of your personality to answer questions for the doctor. She can already access a comprehensive history of your medical health, ask questions about symptoms, and give the AI instructions. Later in the day (or immediately if necessary) your avatar can catch up with you to debrief on what you should be doing, and what medications to pick up (or print on your Bio3D printer)

Or you need to call the insurance company about a change in your home policy. Rather than waiting 40 rings to navigate an IVR through 3 departments to get to the right person, your avatar could call the insurance company. They will never get frustrated, annoyed, or impatient. As you they'll answer questions about your finances, new purchases, and cover you need. When you arrive home from work, your avatar simply informs you the insurance is done.

And then that call from your daughter's teacher. Teachers tend to work at really challenging hours for most people to arrange an interview. It's usually inconvenient for most to get from the workplace to the school at a time that is convenient for a teacher. (Disclaimer: Lucy, my wife is a teacher) But it is important. Arguably more important than work. Of course, your avatar knows the questions you'd ask about behaviour, effort and achievement. It is programmed with your concerns about peer relationships and bullying, and can answer any questions about what's happening on the home front. You can then have a non-emotional discussion about progress with the avatar that evening.

In fact we already do this, just not with technology. As a father of four girls, often Lucy and I would “divide and conquer” to get to all the teachers. But Lu is different to me. She's less concerned with a strategy for maths, I probably err to academics over emotional and social development. How good would it be not to have to divide the tasks up, and be assured that “you” are asking the questions you want answers to? And for the teacher that they can get a whole picture from both parents?

Let's take this a step further. How much of a teacher's personality and knowledge would you need to program into an Avatar to interact about a given subject? Again I argue not very much. And now you have this digital AI, you can scale this to provide extremely small ratios of teacher to students. And you could do it contextually. So with a general introduction to algebra maybe your best maths teacher AI interacts with 12 students, but with a thorny section on calculus, you could scale down to 1:1. And of course, you could repeat a lesson ad infinitum. Because this is an AI copy of the teacher, the student can ask different questions every time, or the same questions. The avatar remembers the interactions and can adjust expectations and activities accordingly.

Indeed with VR a university could offer courses with world leading professors, lecturers, and tutors to unlimited numbers of students, and times convenient to the students. Actually in VR and with Wearable Technology you can simulate physical skills as well. Are you holding the scalpel correctly? Is your fingering on the flute right? You'll be able to non-destructively practice skills, with expert coaching and feedback. This will absolutely accelerate and enhance learning.

With Augmented Reality, the avatar could appear with you in a physical location too. Imagine a dancer patiently showing you choreographed moves in the dance studio you're in, then giving you real time feed back as you dance. Then debriefing your “real” instructor on your progress. Teacher AI's able to go over homework with children, music teachers able to practice daily with students.

This world is not that far off at all. In fact when I did my Master Degree, over a decade ago, I studied the entire course online. But Powerpoint presentations, and forum chats for interaction, were a very crude way to deliver teaching. Being able to ask a complex question, with a multi-layered answer, at any time of day or night, certainly would've helped me understand encryption based on large prime numbers, and the ethics of Thorac-25.

Today Internet delivered audio and video lessons (e.g. Audible Great Courses, Udemy, Kahn Academy etc) are far more effective, but still lack intelligent interaction and feedback for practical skills.

In short, we'll be able to timeshift and location shift our interactions in the same way we do with TV programs today by recording on a DVR.

So if you could program yourself into an AI avatar, that constantly experiences the world as you do, and can intelligently interact with others, what interactions would you time shift?

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ONLY READ THIS POST IF YOU’RE GOING TO BUY AN APPLE WATCH!

I get it. Not everyone will buy an Apple Watch. Actually according to some polls only 3% of people will. Which, despite being pretty high in it’s own right for an as yet unreleased product, is about an arbitrary a number as you’re likely to get. May as well ask how many people would buy a Long Island Iced Tea when on their next holiday.

Still. If you are planning to buy one. This article is for you.

If not. Stop reading here….

…I mean it. Stop reading. You won’t be interested in any way, shape, or form in what I have to say below.

Still reading? Ok then…

Oh the dilemma of choice! Damn you Apple. After years of having the simplest product psychology of all technology purveyors (with a choice of only TV, iPod, iPhone, iPad, Mac, MacBook), why now have you complicated matters with so much choice?

Well, it’s intentional of course. Yes, there’s the personal nature of watches. But frankly they could’ve given you infinite permutations without the Sport or Edition, er, editions.

First I’ll discuss which edition Apple want you to buy. Then which one you probably should buy.

So here’s the thing. As an iPhone user (which by definition if you want an Apple Watch you have to be) choosing between editions means you aren’t considering other smartwatches. Most of which will work with your iPhone. So firstly, they want you to buy an Apple Watch.

Here are the 3 options:

  1. Apple Watch Sport - with a case made out of unicorn horn and aluminum (or aluminium) and a silicon band – begins at U$350/400. The two prices because each model comes in a 38 and 42mm size. In Australia this translates to circa AU$500. Sigh.
  2. Apple Watch – with a case made of Icelandic tempered stainless steel, and a number of bands – begins at U$500/550 all the way up to >U$1000. Wow. A big one for a watch that you’ll need to charge daily and pair with a phone, itself close to that price.
  3. Apple Watch Edition – with a case clearly made of fairy wings and rose gold – comes in at U$7,000 all the way up to U$10,000. But wait, there will be a limited run of these. My guess is you won’t be able to buy one even if you could lay a cool ten stacks over the counter. Unless your name is Jennifer, or Hugh, or Victoria perhaps.

With 3 choices, most people will choose the middle option. Remember the Apple customer is someone who pays more for quality. They buy on value, not price. With just one choice at $350, less people would buy an Apple Watch. With 2 choices, less people would buy the “expensive” watch. But with 3 editions, people are more likely to choose option two.

And people aren’t sheeple. Just because they do this doesn’t mean they’re unintelligent, stupid, fanboi’s. We all do this. Heck, we’ve been conditioned since our parents read Goldilocks to us. When you bought your last car, or washing machine, or bed, did you buy the base model? Didn’t think so.

Apple Watch BlackSo Apple, smartly are using the tools at their disposal to create a desire in their customers to lay up to a grand on a smartwatch, when their competition is selling their baubles at half that. I know the one I want is the space black steel Watch, with a black strap.

But I don’t think that’s the one I’m going to buy, and my recommendation is that you don’t either. Here’s why:

Firstly, the functionality of each edition is identical. Same sensors, same processor, memory, connectivity, ability to add straps, everything. So you don’t lose any functionality with the “value” option.

Secondly, 18 hour “typical” day battery life. I know I don’t have typical usage. That means I’m probably going to need to charge my watch sometime during the day. You could buy two Sport editions for the price of the Watch, and simply rotate them 8-)

Apple Watch Sport BlackBut most importantly, this is version 1. Buy it? Absolutely. Certainly over one of the other smartwatch options (although I’ll reserve judgement on the new Pebble Time, which I’m supporting). But as the Apple Watch is likely to be upgraded in 12 to 18 months, simply because of Moore’s Law. You don’t want to spend a grand now, only for v2 to have built in GPS and SIM in a year’s time and be wanting to spend another grand then.

No. Save your dosh. Buy the cheapest option, and if you have to personalise it, get a nice strap. There’ll be hundred’s of options soon.

Or get a Pebble Time, for much less.

Unless your name is Hugh, or Jennifer, or Victoria. Then send one of your entourage to pick up a 10 grand Edition

 

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What’s worse than hearing “You got great talent/potential, but need to apply yourself?”

Probably hearing “You’ve got no talent/potential”

And definitely not hearing, or heeding, the feedback at all.

 

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Skully AR-1 (Image by Indiegogo)

The other day I attended a forum hosted by Standards Australia on the debacle that is Motorcycle Helmet standards here. The reason I attended was in the vain hope that someone in the industry, a manufacturer, standards writer, legislator, even distributor or reseller, was actually considering standards for new technologies. Rather than just trying to rationalise standards for old helmet designs.

Yeah. I was disappointed.

IMG_6795I did, however, meet the R&D lead for Shark Helmets. Which, as any of you readers of my blog know, is my helmet brand of choice. I’ve owned 4 Sharks, and the Explore-R is imho the most versatile, and best helmet available today.

But they need to beware. Because helmets, like every other industry, are currently being disrupted by technology. And like every other industry, the old guard tend to focus on current metrics and legacy competitors for too long. Not realising why their business is draining away until it’s too late. Just look at Borders, or Kodak (Although it seems Kodak have resurrected), even stalwart IT companies are being disrupted by start-ups.

Who should Shark beware? Not Shoei, Arai, AGV, or even Schuberth. But an as yet unlaunched helmet from a start-up, Skully Systems. When I mentioned this to said Research lead, he smiled indulgently, mentioned that they were looking into technology integration, and pointed out that the Skully AR-1 had yet to see the light of day.

Sigh. How many companies have done too little, too late?

Why wouldn’t a company with the resources of Shark (Shoei, Arai, AGV etc) develop even one helmet with integrated technology? With integrated audio, video cameras, and NED (Near Eye Display – also, incorrectly, called Heads Up Display)?

Why not partner with a bike manufacturer? Bundling the helmet, branding it, and integrating with the telemetry of the bike?

Why not even OEM for a technology company? Or form a JV?

The Skully AR-1 is a $1500 helmet, and when it’s released, I’ll buy one. Because my life is worth more than $1500, and every second I can keep my eyes on the road rather than flicking down to a speedo, or GPS, or rearview mirror, is another second I’m safer.

Actually $1500 is a good price. A high end helmet is already in the order of $700 – $900. Then add a GoPro for $500 (plus the ugly unsafe attachment), a Bluetooth Headset for $200 (with it’s own ugly, unsafe attachment) and you’re already there.

And Skully Systems isn’t the only, or even the first, start-up adding Augmented Reality and technology to a helmet. Just the most marketed, because they’re a Silicon Valley lovechild. There’s Livemap (out of Russia I think), BikeHUD from a garage in the UK. Recon Instruments have teamed with Oakley for their Airwave ski-goggles, Moto-X goggles is an obvious next step.

I know there are a lot of riders who buy the cheapest helmets they can. One of the beauties of riding is that it’s a lot cheaper to do 0-100 in 3 secs, or lean through mountain bends, or travel to inaccessible places, than owning a supercar, aeroplane, or 4WD.

But those that buy cheap helmets tend to hold on to them for years as well. They aren’t exactly the market that keeps a helmet manufacturer alive. No, the market that buys helmets are the newly licenced riders (90,000 in NSW every year alone). Not all of them 16 year olds on scooters. At least half are middle-aged, cashed up, and looking to get the best kit they can.

Of course, the millennials themselves are digital natives. For them, Augmented Reality is fast going to be as ubiquitous as TV is to us Gen-X’ers and Radio to Baby Boomers. When they have a choice, connection will be as compelling as breathing.

So get on board I say. And don’t OEM some tier 2 electronics company. Work with the leaders in the field. Work with Google, and Microsoft. Magic Leap, HPSony and Samsung (yes, I know VR is not AR, but Sony & Samsung want a piece of this pie). Partner with apparel manufacturers like Alpinestars and Dainese. Motorbike brands like Ducati (owned by Audi), BMW, Yamaha, and Triumph.

Now is the time to disrupt yourselves. Take your strengths of helmet manufacturing expertise, supply chain, distribution, and brand; and marry them to technology that enhances safety, increases comfort, and maximises enjoyment.

If you don’t, the avalanche of disruption will happen, and history books will remember your rise and fall. Or maybe they won’t.

 (Disclaimer: I work for HP, although not directly with Aurasma. My opinions are my own)

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I believe the Apple Watch is going to fly off the shelves, and fundamentally disrupt

the Smart Watch, perhaps even the entire Wearable Industry. An opinion that is hotly argued by friends and critics alike. Am I just a fanboi? Will I be proved wrong? It certainly won’t be the first time.

But I don’t think I am.

In fact I think that the release of the watch is going to follow an increasingly familiar pattern.

  • A release date will be announced, probably with some event in Cupertino (or New York?)
  • Weeks before the release, millions of people will preorder their watch
  • Day(s) before people will queue up outside Apple Stores worldwide
  • On the day of the launch the IT press will largely dismiss it as a “me too” device, probably with some discrediting of the actual features: Battery life will invariably be too short; recharging too finnicky; lack of onboard sensors like GPS a critical omission; and actual onboard sensors either too innacurate for actual use, or gimmicky.
  • Other technologists, typically the anti-Apple crowd will crow that other vendors have “had those features” for years.
  • And still it will fly off the shelves.
  • Apps written for the Watch will spread virally.
  • Before long it will find its way into mainstream life, not to mention verticals like medicine, education, travel, and others.
  • And unlike the Pebble, the Samsung Gear, the Moto360, and other Smart Watches, it will sell millions of units. In fact I predict it will be Apple’s biggest selling debut.

Why?

User Experience

Firstly, Apple has never worried about “speeds and feeds.” Rather they’ve always focused on fantastic user experience driven by great design. Driven by great design, but executed by unmatchable build quality. That Macbook Pro I purchased 4 years ago, and those Macbook Airs my daughters have been using daily for 3 years are still immaculate. No other technology I’ve used or owned in 3 decades come close to the “it just works, beautifully” mantra of Apple.

Part of this UX is the User Interface itself. We’ve seen this before. Microsoft, Palm, and Blackberry all simply tried to squash the desktop PC semantic onto PDA’s and Smartphones. Complete with cursors, physical keyboards, and the need for styli. With the iPhone, which initially incurred the disdain of IT professionals, Apple changed the UI entirely. The iPod was designed in the age of the monochrome mobile phone with it’s now iconic “clickwheel.” iOS in turn was designed for touch on smaller screens in the age of styli and keyboards.

Google Wear attempts to do the same thing on watches as Windows did on PDA’s. Squash the current UI onto a smaller screen. Apple will do this right, and like with iOS, other vendors will follow suit (with their variations on the theme.)

Of course what Apple will do may very well not be new. After all we’ve used the “crown” on watches for well over a century. But they will adapt it to the smart watch in a way that a 4 year old will intuit.

Presence

Of the 200 odd journalists at the launch event, a minority were from the IT media. A vast majority were from the fashion industry. Yep. To me this makes absolute sense. A watch is a fashion item. A status item. For some people the status item. Far more telling than a PC or Tablet. And even more visible than a Phone.

Listen, when Jennifer Lawrence walks down a red carpet wearing her Rose Gold Apple Watch, with a “Jennifer Lawrence Signature Burberry Leather Strap,” it will be the most in-demand high school gadget.

And why not. Watches have been a fashion and status item for years.

No other smartwatch boasts choice of an aluminium, steel, or gold case. None has a simple, modular replaceable strap. Want to go for a run? No problem, snap on the silicon band. Attending that cocktail party, replace the band with one that matches your outfit.

No, I don’t think this is going to replace the $5k Breitling, or the $10k Philippe Patek’s. Then again I don’t own one of those though. Do you?

Personal

One of the critiques I’ve heard levelled at Apple in the past, is that they sport a post-modern, sterile, uniform aesthetic. There’s no choice. Your unibody aluminium Macbook isn’t unique. And it doesn’t fit individual tastes. In fact it can’t match the oak panelled study. People want choice!

Frankly I’ve noticed for PC’s people don’t really care. They’re more interested in what’s on the PC than whether or not it matches the decor. Fast, secure, reliable, beautiful? Check. Just pop into any university lecture hall in the world and see quite how much choice students want with their laptops. I also find it ironic that the purveyors of boxy, beige plastic critique the design of Apple devices. But hey, whatever,

A phone of course is different. But people tend to personalise these with cases.

But a watch? Now a watch is personal. Not only personal, but contextual. Because people change their appearance depending on context. So where every other smartwatch vendor has a single design, (entirely contradicting their laptop and PC strategy), Apple has created the ultimate personal device. Both with the UI as well as the physical accessories.

Added to which, the massive Apple accessory channel is bound to extend this motif even more. And Apple themselves have reached out to Yves St Laurent, Burberry, Armani and others.

You will be able to simultaneously own the most popular technology device, that is unique to you.

Primal

But there is one more thing that Jonny Ive and the designers at Apple have cottoned on to…

…our primal need for connection.

For the longest time watches have connected us to information. Certainly time, but in more recent years other functional information like weather, tides, location, and sports telemetry.

Other smartwatches connect us to information from other people, but still are a poor proxy for actual communication.

But the Apple Watch, with it’s Taptic ™ communication will enable a new intimate form of sub-vocal communication that I predict will be overwhelmingly compelling.

This will tap into the depths of our psyches and be as irresistable as SMS was to people at the turn of the millennium. Remember how we learned T9, and paid exhorbitant rates to send crude 160 character text messages to each other? Yeah. Now you’ll be able to stay in touch with your lover, your grandparents, your friends, and your kids without taking your phone out your pocket. Or even looking at your watch.

Genius.\

Watch This

So, let’s check out the launch. People point out how teens, and twenties no longer wear watches, eschewing the single function device for the multi-modal smartphone.

I say there are now millions of empty wrists that don’t have other watches to replace.

 

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(c) Saving Wild

“More is nog ‘n dag”

Which is Afrikaans for “Tomorrow is another day!” It’s used as a throw away line. A shrug. “Moenie worry nie, more is nog ‘n dag.” (Don’t worry, tomorrow’s another day.)

Which pretty much sums up how I feel right now. Deadline’s looming, pressure mounting, fighting not only the establishment, but fast held culture like treacle.

For the last 4 months I’ve been working with one of our global development teams to develop an application for the business. They quoted 9 months and $360k (without infrastructure) to the business sponsor, who has allocated $200k and 3 months.

I know. Right.

But that’s not the issue. The issue is one of the stakeholders who works for the business sponsor is “program managing” the development. Only I initiated a number of disruptions to bridge this expectation chasm. One of which is Agile.

So we don’t need a Program Manager. And whilst she could be helpful removing impediments, like getting approvals, or escalating resource requests, she’s not. Merely increasing the reporting and status meeting burden. Refusing to learn the methodology or the tools we’re using, and second guessing every decision.

Sigh.

But it’s ok. “More is nog ‘n dag.” or as they also say in Africa: “The ox is slow, but the earth is patient.”

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“Every cell in our body is made up from nature!”

(c) Cytographics

 

That’s the thought that blew my mind this morning. All of the constituent components of every cell, is biologically derived or designed. Part of an ecosystem.

I guess it kind’ve makes sense that we connect with nature regularly, move as we were intended to (which isn’t the same as in the gymn), and eat unprocessed foods (Hep A from Chinese Farmed Berries anyone?)

Yet, technology enables, empowers, and connects us. To each other. To information. To progress.

How do we maintain the symbiosis?

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wpid-Photo-20141001231954.jpg“Holy Crap you see a lot out of this helmet!”

That was my first honest impression riding home with my shiny new Shark Explore-R. Actually, I had 3 overwhelming sensations:

  1. That super comfy, snug, caress of a perfectly fitting helmet.
  2. An unbelievable absence of weight.
  3. The aforementioned view that gives an almost fighter pilot command of the road.

It really felt like an open face lid. You actually have to move your eyeballs to see the edge of the viewport.

I bought the helmet for touring. Which requires versatility. Sometimes you’re off-road on a Royal Enfield Bullet at 4500m, then you’re dirt in the lowest place on earth, and then you are fanging along a 6 lane interstate. This is where I’ve honestly found the Explore-R to come into it’s own.

The Great

I’m going to harp on about the vision again. This is based on the same shell (and shares the visor) with the Vision-R. And after owning and riding with the:

  • Arai XD-4 (Sold)
  • Shark Evoline 2 (Sold)
  • Shark Speed-R (Selling)
  • Shark Race-R Pro Carbon (Sold)
  • Fly Trekker (Sold)

And at least in the shop trying on:

  • Shoei GT Air
  • Shoei DS Hornet
  • BMW Enduro
  • Arai VX-Pro 3

I can categorically say in “road mode” this helmet outshines them all. Not only from side to side peripheral vision, but up down visibility too. And of course, it lets in more light.

IMG_4423This wide eye port is pretty awesome for when you’re touring and want to wear MX style goggles. The helmet comes with its own of course, with Carl Zeiss lenses, but I bought and wore the Liquid Image Torque Video Goggles too, which replace having to attach a GoPro to your helmet. These didn’t fit the Arai, but fit the Shark comfortably.

On other helmets (chiefly the Arai XD-4) I found that to get the goggles to fit comfortably (& so I could see) meant pushing the helmet up, which put pressure on the back of my neck. Ok for a commute. For 10 hours in the mountains, not so much.

Did I say how light this lid was? Somewhere between 1300 and 1400g depending on configuration. Which means nothing. It feels lighter than the Race-R Pro Carbon, which is designed for MotoGP. Perhaps the balance is better. Whatever it is, it’s irreplaceably light.

The Good

The peak snaps in to the visor hinges and attaches to the lid via a screw. Time to attach? Seconds. Every time I travel I bring this along. There are often times I’ll be riding early morning, or late in the evening, with a low sun, and the peak is positioned perfectly. No obstruction of vision, but easy to angle to shade your eyes. The peak is also fine at motorway speeds. In fact I think with turbulence of a windshield, the peak makes the helmet more stable than without it at high speed.

IMG_6795The internal sun visor is pretty good too. Not a sunglass replacement, but enough to reduce glare. For the most part in summer on the road I wear an Iridium Silver Visor, which reduces a lot more glare, and are a sunglass replacement. Changing visors and peaks, snap one out, the other in.

Also good are the indentations for the SharkTooth Bluetooth Headset. I use a Sena, but the speakers still fit nicely under the liner.

The goggles are good. They seal well, and the quick release is a nice touch. When you take that hydration or photo stop, it’s nice to flip the goggles off with one hand. Something I struggled with when using the Torques. But whether wearing the Shark or the Liquid Image Goggles, they fitted in the eye port well, giving good visibility. This is fine for on the trail, but you need to be definite with head checks in traffic as your peripheral vision is significantly reduced.

The Meh

It comes with a “Neck Gaiter” which unzips out of the chin liner. I used this precisely once on my last day in the Himalayas. Never since. It is a perfectly useless accessory. I mean it’s not like my neck ever gets wet anyway. Like I’d care if it did. And actually trying to velcro this around the back of your neck, with a jacket and (obviously) helmet on, is damn near impossible.

Also irritating, but clearly unique to my winning good looks, is the need to unfold my ears every time I put the helmet on. Something about Shark helmets, my ears fold in half and I have to stick my finger in both sides to unfold them. Yeah, no idea why, but this doesn’t happen with the Arai.

DCIM106GOPROThe chin guard is very close to your mouth, which physically wasn’t an issue in the mountains (when you’re often sucking in air after pushing then kick-starting your bike at altitude) but it was psychologically. You feel like you can’t get air in, although you can. Overall the ventilation is fine, I mean I’ve ridden this in +40C temps many times, for many hours. But it’s nowhere near as good as the Race-R Pro (which is the best ever). Still you can always replace the visor with goggles to get plenty of air to your face.

Road noise is tolerable. I don’t plug when commuting, but do when spending a couple of hours on the bike, especially if doing high speeds with the goggles on. Interestingly I didn’t use earplugs (or BT headset) once in the mountains. But then we were averaging 25kph ;-)

I’m not a fan of the colour scheme. When I bought mine there was exactly one colour. Carbon or Carbon. Which is utilitarian at best, and probably dangerous at worse. Note: This has been fixed on the new model.

The Down Right Annoying

You can’t get spare goggle clips (to attach to the helmet quick-release lugs) or even a spare set of goggles. Which is a pain if you want to adapt your aftermarket goggles (for example, LI Torques) to the helmet. It also means you can’t get different goggles for different environments, like snow or desert, or clear for rain.

Also frustrating is the inability to have the peak and the visor on the helmet simultaneously like other dual-sport lids.

It seems like Shark has been listening, and apparently both of these issues have been addressed.

How It Holds Up

DSC00919Two weeks of 10+ hour days riding in the Indian Himalaya’s put’s a fair amount of strain on a lid (not to mention yourhead and neck.) There is a lot of dust, sweat, rain, heat, cold, donning and doffing, not to mention the odd mishap. It took 3 washes of the blue bamboo liner to get the dust and sweat out. But the neck roll, and comfort liner are not at all frayed. The helmet is as comfortable and plush as the day I bought it (and frankly I’d simply replace the liner if it ever lost that.)

My first Shark, the Evoline 2, had a terribly frayed neck roll after just on a year.

wpid-Photo-20141001233112.jpgWhilst India was gruelling, America needed flexibility. From downtown LA, through the Angeles Crest, onto the Las Vegas highway, then Death Valley (including 75 miles of dirt), back onto motorways, and then a couple of days in Yosemite in snow. I was constantly reconfiguring the helmet for the conditions.

Then of course, you come home and spend 20 mins in Sydney traffic every morning and evening, with day trips on the week-end.DCIM106GOPRO

9 months and 20,000 kms and this is still the best helmet I’ve owned.

Ever.

DSC00976

Questions I Couldn’t Find Answers To

When I was researching the best helmet for my riding style, i.e. 80% commute, 10% day trips, 10% international dual sport tours, I had a couple of questions I could simply not find the answer to. This leads to buying a bunch of helmets, because you simply can’t test a helmet properly until you ride with it. Preferably in all conditions. So here are some of the answers:

Can you use this with after-market goggles? Specifically with the Liquid Image Torque?

Yes! This is a fantastic way to video and photo your rides without attaching an expensive GoPro.

Can you modify your goggle strap to attach to the quick release lugs?

I haven’t found a way to do this without discarding the Shark goggles. But I live in hope that there will be accessories available.

 

Can you wear goggles under the visor?

Depends. Yes for the Shark Goggles, which you can even close the visor over; no for the LI Torque Goggles. This is because of the battery and control compartments in the strap. However, on this model at least, you can’t have the peak and the visor attached at the same time.

 

Rain, Fogging?

Yeah, not great. Not bad, you can crack the visor, although I prefer to crack it manually rather than with the visor mechanism. I believe you can get a Vision-R visor with Pin Lock, which would resolve this.

Actually if you don’t mind a slightly wet face, the goggles are better in the rain as they’re dual-layer, and isolated from your breath.

 

Noise?

Not the quietest, but quieter than dual-sport helmets. You’ll need earplugs for long rides. At least, I do.

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So I took Lucy out for a Valentine’s Day brunch in the Porsche. An opportunity to get out with the top down amongst the local twisty roads, and enjoy a robust breakfast overlooking the water at one of Sydney’s idyllic spots. I decided to enjoy a relatively new restaurant/cafe called “The Estuary” on Kangaroo Point. You can get there pretty much by motorway (Brooklyn Junction off the M1), but it’s much more fun to head down the Old Pacific Highway (our equivalent of the US National Route 101/California Route 1 Pacific Coast Highway).

We pulled in to this romantic setting at 9am on Valentine’s Day, which given the cyclist, motorbike, and sports car traffic on this road, not to mention boater and fisherman; you’d expect to be heaving.

You’d be wrong!

There was a kiosk open, for coffee and overpriced friands; but the restaurant, replete with floor to ceiling glass doors & balcony, was firmly shut.

Wow!

Now, I’ll be frank and point out the 5 identical Jeep Grand Cherokee’s, and 2 identical red Alfa C4 Sports Cars in the car park. Perhaps there was an event. But this is the second time I’ve pulled in here. The last time was mid-morning on a Saturday with a couple of biker friends. And the deal was the same. You could get a coffee, and walk down the boat ramp to the wharf. But you couldn’t get an Aussie Breakfast and sit at a table & chair on the balcony.

As Lucy put it: “I don’t know much about running a business, but I think being open is a prerequisite!”

I get it. They don’t want to cater to motorcyclists, sports car drivers, and cyclists all enjoying one of Sydney’s best roads.

But why not?

The other two watering holes, Pie in the Sky, at the beginning of the run in Cowan, and The Old Road Cafe at the end of the run in Mount White (note: purists ride another 6 or so km’s to the ‘slab’), both do a roaring trade. Especially on week-end, and especially in great weather. And The Estuary is gorgeous. Great parking, really nice balcony, fantastic view, central location, modern accoutrements. Both PITS and TORC have roughed up tar, tired, haphazard tables, and really could do with a makeover.

But also, PITS and TORC have friendly staff, great food, and are open!

It’s a simple rule really. Be Open.

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Late one dreary night in April 1993, I was standing at a London tube station, I want to say Hammersmith, but I can't be sure. What I do remember though is that I was exhausted. En Route from Heathrow to the centre of the capital to try and get a room, at least for a night, at the YHA. I'd jumped off the tube one station early for the connection I needed. So had to walk half a mile with my backpack and dive bag to the next station. This was after having spent the day in Rome, as part of my first long haul trip in 20 years from South Africa. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this turned out to be the first day of my emigration.

Right then, however, it was the first, long day of an adventure in travel. Rome had been a blast of course, especially to a Latin student & Christian. London was overwhelming, big, dirty, energetic, bloody expensive for a colonial, and despite my excitement I wasn't a little nervous. This was my first foreign experience of not being entirely sure where I was, but operating on the confidence that I'd figure it out.

A couple of blokes sauntered up, looked me up and down, and greeted me. Here we go I thought. Laden with about 40kgs of luggage, haven't slept in 24 hours, lost, and never particularly violent, there was no way I could defend myself against the inevitable mugging. (Remember this was my first night out of South Africa where you constantly evaluate for violence) Not that I had much to steal, but still it was all I owned. I tried to locate a member of staff, or anybody on the empty platform…

…Crickets!

“Howzit,” I replied, trying (unsuccessfully) to seem nonchalant.

“Hey, you're from South Africa,” the tall, thin one, Michael, said.

“How'd you know,”

“Well, you opened your mouth,” he smiled, “where were you going?”

“YHA for the night.”

“No, you're not, that place is a rort. You're coming to Shepherd's Bush and staying with us. For free.”

And in one interaction I had free accommodation for the night. A couple of new friends who took me out, and gave me invaluable advice, not only for getting around London, but travelling the globe.

Later, when I told my mum of the interaction, she laughed and said, “But you always land with your bum in the butter!”

“…bum in the butter!” Serendipity! Luck! Fate! Even destiny!

This certainly wasn't the first time that my circumstances had contrived to a positive outcome, but one of the more memorable. Yet I've seen many, many successful people who believe that they were the largest contributor, if not the singular source, of their success. And believed of myself.

I've also seen many, many smart, committed, disciplined people head into disastrous failure. Sometimes even the same people, in similar circumstances, making the same decisions.

So it seems that Luck is a contributing, even deciding factor, in achievement.

Why then have I spent my life trying to improve my skills, to be better at everything, without doing anything to understand the contribution of luck in my success? Why do companies promote or fire smart, committed, passionate people who succeed or fail through only percieved fault of their own? Why don't we get serious, and by that I mean invest skills, time and resources into understanding Luck?

How can we even do that?

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