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The Zero1 helmet from Vicis.
The Zero1 helmet from Vicis.

Two of the top collegiate football programs on the West Coast will be testing high-tech helmets developed by a Seattle startup.

The Oregonian reported from The University of Oregon team practice on Monday and noticed players wearing Vicis‘ new ZERO1 helmets.

Day 1 #WinTheDay

A photo posted by Oregon Ducks (@goducks) on

Pharaoh Brown, a senior tight end at the UO, tweeted about the helmets last month.

The helmets, which retail at $1,500 each, are also being tested this season by UO’s rivals up Interstate 5 at the University of Washington, where Vicis was actually first conceived. According to new marketing material posted by the UW this month, an anonymous donor paid for the team’s new helmets.

VICIS logoVicis, founded in Seattle two years ago, says its helmet provides more protection against skull fracture, traumatic brain injury, and concussion than the traditional helmet used by athletes today, according to the company. The helmet differentiates from other available options because of a unique outer shell material that is designed to mitigate the forces thought to cause concussions on the football field and in other contact sports.

The 30-person startup spun out of the UW in 2014 and one of its co-founders, CTO Per Reinhall, is the chairman of the UW Mechanical Engineering Department. After two years of development, Vicis is ready for teams to wear its ZERO1 helmet.

The company previously told GeekWire that around 25 NFL and 30 NCAA teams have expressed interest in testing the helmet for the 2016 season.

UW head coach Chris Petersen told the Seattle Times last month that he believes Vicis’ product will be “the safest helmet on the market.” Here’s a new video that shows how Vicis’ helmet can be calibrated to custom-fit players depending on their head shape:

Vicis CEO Dave Marver speaks at the GeekWire Sports Tech Summit.
Vicis CEO Dave Marver speaks at the GeekWire Sports Tech Summit.

Vicis CEO Dave Marver spoke at the inaugural GeekWire Sports Tech Summit in Seattle last month.

“We were struck by the fact that there had been so little innovation in the helmet space,” Marver said, recalling the early days of Vicis. “Today’s players are using helmets that resemble those worn in the 1970s. We were also surprised that so few startups were attacking the problem. We thought we could make a difference.”

Marver, who founded Vicis with Reinhall and Chief Medical Officer Samuel Browd — a director for the Seattle Children’s Hospital Sports Concussion Program — said that his company plans to develop helmets for other sports like hockey, lacrosse, soccer, and others.

“Our objective is to build an enduring company in Seattle that offers hundreds if not thousands of really cool, fulfilling sports technology jobs,” he said. “We want to make a difference in the lives of young athletes who want to participate in contact sports.”

Vicis has raised nearly $20 million since 2014, most recently reeling in $6 million this past May. More than 100 investors participated in its Series A round, including angels, neurological and spine surgeons, NFL players, and business leaders from across the country. Investors range from people like Roger Staubach, the 1963 Heisman Trophy winner and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback who led his team to two Super Bowl wins; to folks like Robert Nelsen, a biotech industry veteran and co-founder of Arch Venture Partners; and Bruce Montgomery, a veteran of the Seattle biotech scene.

Vicis, a finalist for the 2016 GeekWire Awards in the Hardware/Gadget of the Year category, also has an impressive list of folks on its coalition, including newly-added people like NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, and Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner. Others on the coalition include all-time great NFL running back Tony Dorsett and Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin, who also spoke at the Sports Tech Summit.

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