New POC helmet knows when its life is over

Green is go. Red is dead.

The new POC Skull Orbic Comp H.I. MIPS helmet.

The new POC Skull Orbic Comp H.I. MIPS helmet.

POC Skull Orbic Comp H.I. MIPS helmet
MSRP: $480; on sale Fall 2014

At the moment, it's hard to tell when to replace your ski helmet. There are rules of thumb, but nothing definitive. That's where POC's new Skull Orbic Comp H.I. MIPS helmet comes in.

The helmet, which for now is targeted just at ski racers, uses a multi-impact EPP liner and has a built in system that tells users exactly when the integrity of the structure has been compromised and the helmet is not longer safe to use. All you have to do is press a little button on the back of the helmet that turns green or red. Green is go. Red is dead.

To monitor the helmet, POC uses something called a Helmet Integrity (H.I.) system, which has a web of stress-strain sensors throughout the liner that deform when the helmet endures significant impacts. The indicator light will tell you to buy a new helmet when one of two things happens; either the helmet takes too many smaller hits cumulatively, or it takes one good hit that's hard enough to create a compromising deformation.

POC uses a traffic light analogy to describe the technology. When your car rolls up to some red lights it interrupts a signal under the pavement and tells the light to change. On the helmet, if you have a big enough impact, the stress-strain sensors are interrupted and the helmet knows.

The main goal of the Skull Orbic Comp H.I. MIPS is to help ski racers deal with the impact they take from hitting gates, especially in the giant slalom. The front of the helmet has a layer of VPD, or Visco-Elastic Polymer Dough, which helps reduce the impact from gates, but POC wanted to know just how long a helmet could survive after getting thwacked multiple times.

The hope is to eventually have the H.I. system trickle down. The application for park riders is obvious, and there are also reasons for using it in kid's helmet because children are more prone to falling. Down the road the technology could eventually be used in all of POC's multi-impact helmets.