Ever tried to wear a helmet and a pair of headphones at the same time? It’s not easy. Inevitably, you end up frustrated with your earphones falling out all the time or pressed in your ears too tightly. That’s just scratching the surface in terms of irritations, too, but what do you do? You need the safety of your helmet. It’s an issue that plagued Juan Garcia Mansilla’s slope time, but being an industrial designer and entrepreneur, he got to work on a solution.
That solution is Soundshield by Unit 1, providing users with a helmet and headphones combined safely. It’s perfect for avid skiers, snowboarders, skateboarders and pretty much anyone else that uses a helmet regularly. The beauty here is that when you don’t need your helmet, you can still take your headphones with you.
“Soundshield came to life very naturally,” Mansilla says. “I’ve been skiing since I was a little kid and I got into skiing with music years ago. Being kind of a tech freak, I tried every option out there: earbuds that either fell off or painfully pressed against my ears all day long, audio kits with terrible audio quality and either bad interface or no interface at all and even wearing just my everyday headphones without a helmet.”
Realizing that none of these solutions worked very well, and appreciating the potential dangers that come with not wearing a helmet or ignoring people because pausing your music is too much hassle, Mansilla started planning.
Crucially, he realized that any answer with built-in headphones meant you’d need additional headphones for when you’re not on the slopes. The solution was simple: “We just mixed A with B in a way that doesn’t exist.”
Working alongside co-founder, Javier Bertani, the pair used their extensive industrial design experience, as well as their love for skiing and skating, to come up with Soundshield. Originally conceived in 2015, the product was in its design and prototyping phases throughout 2016. The end result solves every problem the creators experienced in the past.
”[The interface] means that our headphones let you control your music and calls even with the thickest mitten out there, without even looking at it. Also there are no wires in the way, we’ve gone full wireless.” Sound quality is also excellent with 40mm drivers, hand-picked electrical components, and Bluetooth 4.2 to round things off.”
The headphones have been designed specifically as part of the full product, ensuring they’re firmly attached to the helmet while just as easily removed when you need them to be. The focus is on simplicity and ease, meaning its docking system works with eight anchor points while still being quickly released via a quick release tab. Pairing is a matter of hitting one button. While using Soundshield, that button allows you to take or end calls, pause your music or skip between tracks.
“The hardest challenge we faced was the dock,” notes Mansilla. It was key to ensuring Soundshield accomplished all of the team’s aims. As Mansilla explained, “helmets exist, headphones exist…the dock is what brings them together into a sleek combo.”
“We can confidently say that after dozens of different versions, we came up with the best possible way to bring helmet and headphones together,” Mansilla says.
That’s seemingly reflected by how well the recently launched IndieGoGo campaign for Soundshield has gone. Having reached more than three-quarters of its goal with time left to run, it’s progressing well. Currently, $169 gets you one Soundshield helmet/headphones combo, a substantial discount on the $299 retail price.
Unit 1 aren’t stopping there, though. They plan to continue to innovate. “We’re already working on Goggles for our Soundshield helmet and a bunch of other products consistent with our active lifestyle and our passion for design & innovation,” Mansilla told us.
With a team made up of industrial designers, engineers and visual production experts who are also action sports junkies, the sky’s the limit as Mansilla sees it: “You can expect a steady stream of innovative products that will redefine user experience.”
The Soundshield IndieGoGo campaign runs until March 23.