Are Smart Ski Goggles Worth It? (Best Options To Consider This Winter)
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Ski goggles are an essential part of a ski kit to protect your eyes from the sun’s rays and glare. And after years of false dawns and glitches, manufacturers are finally creating mainstream goggles that satisfy customers’ hunger for smart tech.
We are finally seeing the coming together of full-screen HUD displays and augmented reality for a fully immersive experience with ski goggles, albeit at a hefty price tag. A new kid on the block, Rekkie additionally offers radio connectivity between two similar sets of goggles, which is bound to appeal to buyers.
What Exactly Are Smart Ski Goggles?
We see ‘smart’ products everywhere we look now – smartphones, smart cars, and even smart toothbrushes, for goodness’ sake! And so, ski goggle manufacturers have got in on the act with a range of products that mainly offer better connectivity and information as you are skiing.
Key Takeaway: Most systems connect to your smartphone (either iPhone or Android), which immediately enables calls and messaging, as well as a range of navigation aids linked to GPS.
Innovation with head-up display (HUD) now also means some upmarket goggles display information on the inside of the goggle lens, which can range from your speed, angle of descent, and even information about the choice of runs in front of you.
Ski goggle producers first tried to launch smart ski goggles in around 2010, often using partnerships between ski goggle manufacturers and technology companies.
However, there were many hurdles to overcome including reliability and the smaller projection surface of a goggle lens. For a long time, a reliable working solution seemed to be just around the corner, however, at last, a few larger manufacturers are engaging with full-time production.
What Features Do Smart Goggles Have Now?
Probably the most long-awaited feature of smart goggles is HUD. Customers are attracted to the transfer of technology from some of the most cutting-edge jet fighters in the world, as well as being able to constantly see information about your skiing such as speed, altitude, position on the map, and text messages amongst others.
The first HUD screens were very small taking up just a small section of the lens in the bottom right of your field of vision. However, now designers have extended the technology so that information can be displayed across the full width of the lens.
As the name suggests, augmented reality is an interactive experience where the user observes, and hears the real world around them but additional computer-generated content is laid over the top.
The technology has been transferred from video games so that now skiers can observe the available information in whichever direction they look. So, for example, as you approach a ski lift the name of the ski lift and where it will take you will be instantly displayed on the screen.
There’s no more messing about with gloves and maps. Your smartphone simply downloads all the information for your particular resort via an app and feeds it to the display as needed. Information can include things like upcoming hazards, trail names, restaurant locations, etc.
Key Takeaway: By using the connectivity of your smart goggles to your smartphone all the features of GPS can be accessed. Satellite information accurately locates your position on the mountain, as well as your speed and your altitude.
This constant stream of information is constantly updated on the head-up display.
The possibilities of providing navigation information were some of the earliest innovations in smart ski goggles. Some of the earliest ski goggles utilized a small video screen, which displayed a map of the local resort and arrows to show the choice of directions.
With the development of augmented reality, navigation has come on in leaps and bounds, as the display and information really complement each other. As the information is displayed immersively you don’t need to be distracted by smaller screens with separate information.
The terrain of a resort is generally only documented using a 2-D map, which has immediate limitations for interpretation. A 3-D augmented reality map displayed in goggles will give a much better version of the resort layout.
Smart goggles can include an avalanche transceiver, which will pick up signals from the transponder of a skier buried in an avalanche. The technology can be developed to give directional information to locate the skier more quickly.
Audio and video communication
The possibilities of remote audio and video communication have taken off over the past few years with the mainstream use of cameras to record car journeys and security cameras to monitor homes.
Important: Similarly adapted to smart ski goggles, it’s easy to keep in touch with friends when you get separated on the runs or to view the feed from your kid’s goggles, to see how they are getting on in their lesson.
HD Video camera
Integrating an HD video camera inside smart ski goggles is a great way to follow your progress over the mountain. In the event of a fall, the camera is much less likely to be damaged, compared to an external camera attached to the top of your helmet.
With the connectivity between your smart goggles and smartphone, accessing the Internet via your goggle’s screen can be a lot simpler than fumbling with your smartphone with frozen fingers. Preserving a restaurant table or checking a weather update are suddenly so much easier.
Innovative Smart Ski Goggles On The Market
RideOn Ski Goggles
Israel may only have one ski resort but, from the same country, a start-up company, RideOn, is putting smart ski goggles on the map. The goggles feature augmented reality right across the surface of the lens as well as the following features:
- Battery life 7 hours
- Weight 8.4 oz (240 g)
- 3 layers of foam for an ergonomic fit
- 24 deg viewable area
- Dual anti-fog, anti-scratch lens, UV 400
- HD video recording – 8MP with 10280p
- USB, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi
The goggles are based on the Vuzix Blade Smart Glasses, which have been commercially successful for some time. The goggles enable wearers to see the map of your ski resort, video your days out in high definition, check your speed as well as many other functions.
The control of the features is hands-free and in your field of vision. For example, with the navigation function, a series of arrows are displayed, which lead the user in the right direction. The company is also developing a smart ski helmet, which has an integrated visor with the same functions.
The company is currently still testing its beta program, where RideOn goggles are available for 1490 Euro or $1800 US.
Oakley Airwave Smart Ski Goggles
US ski goggle manufacturer Oakley is well-established in the marketplace, with a brand that appeals to many extreme sports enthusiasts.
They were early adopters of smart features and have now launched the Oakley Airwave, which offers a HUD, on which real-time information is displayed including, distance traveled, temperature speed, altitude, and many more. Sensors to calibrate these measurements include GPS, an accelerometer, and a gyro.
The display is quite small but being positioned so close to the user’s eyes it gives the impression of viewing on a 14-inch display. The goggles connect via Bluetooth to your smartphone, providing further features, such as music playlists, voice, and text messaging.
The package includes a control unit, which is worn on the wrist and has large buttons for easy use with gloves. The Oakley Airwave will include ski maps for 600 resorts, so users can easily find their position, navigate around the resort, and easily locate friends if separated.
The Oakley airwave isn’t cheap at $599 but it is supplied by an established, well-known manufacturer.
Wicue Ski Goggles, Hi-Tech 0.1S Auto Dimming
Located in the Shenzhen region of China, Wicue has been developing flexible liquid crystal films for a variety of products. Their latest innovation is the Wicue Ski Goggles, which use a lens composed of a liquid-crystal film that is photosensitive.
Polarized OTG ski goggles with dual layer lens for double protection. Dual lens technology can effectively avoid potential injury in winter sports activities.
When exposed to different intensities of light the film quickly reacts, changing from completely clear to dark in less than 0.1 of a second. This is particularly useful in fast-changing weather situations, where the sun repeatedly emerges from behind the clouds.
Similarly, adapting to the intensity of light improves the definition of snow, ice, and features on the runs. In addition, the lens offers 100% UV protection, as well as dealing with dazzle and glare. The lens is dual-layered and spherical in construction, offering a wide-angle view.
The lens is held in position by 11 magnets, which ensures changing lenses is quick and convenient. The goggles use a rechargeable battery, so there are no wires to get in the way.
Rekkie Smart Ski Goggles
The guys from Rekkie in Cincinnati started their single-minded mission in 2020 to: build the world’s best snow goggles. Sensing the market’s need for smart products they launched Rekkie Smart Ski Goggles and haven’t looked back since.
The goggles have a transparent, integrated HUD, which is utilized to show your speed, and elevation and even to pinpoint where your friends are. It’s also easy to read texts and other notifications, as well as answer and view phone calls.
You can check the battery life, which usually offers 15+ hours of continuous use and can be easily recharged via a USB. The Rekkie device is innovative in that it offers 915MHz radio connectivity, which enables a voice connection between two similar sets of goggles over a 2000 ft distance.
The goggles are light at 9 oz (255 g) and cushioned with breathable foam for comfort. The goggles are priced at $349.00.
Future or Fad?
The transfer of technology to create smart ski goggles still seems to be a work in progress although a few manufacturers are innovating to create some distinctive products.
Key Takeaway: For the majority of people, spending more than $3-400 on a pair of ski goggles will seem excessive, however, the growing list of advantages that they offer will widen the market.
Keep on eye on this space. More to come.