Goggles with built-in display let you ski like a boss

Oakley's new Airwave goggles feature a heads-up display that can show a variety of mapping and performance data in real time. You can even see where your friends are while you make a jump.

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Who needs a ski resort map, when your goggles can tell you right where you are?

Next Monday, Oakley, one of the largest sports optics makers in the world, will unveil its $599 Airwave ski goggles, an all-new product featuring a small built-in heads-up display that mimics what appears to be a 14-inch screen seen at a distance of five feet.

The display, created using what is called "prism" technology, shows a wide range of imagery and information, including where a skier is, where their friends are, and even data about the last jump they took, or the last run they skied.

Featuring a passel of sensors including GPS, Bluetooth, an accelerometer, a gyroscope, and more, the Airwave is meant to give skiers an entirely new level of information about where they are and what they're doing than has been possible before. It's also tied to a mobile device -- either an iPhone or iPod Touch, or an Android phone -- allowing for an additional level of information to be fed into the goggles. As well, users can see and navigate through music playlists -- from the music on their smartphone -- in the display.

These are not normal goggles. For one, they require a remote control, which is worn on the wrist. For another, they have a little display in the lower right-hand corner that allows wearers to see all that imagery or data, but which doesn't interfere with their view of the slopes in front of them. The goggles are definitely heavier than what most skiers are probably used to, but it's likely that the added weight from the display and the sensors won't be a problem, especially after a few runs.

Oakley's Airwave ski goggles, which run $599 and go on sale on October 31. Oakley

The idea behind Airwave is that skiers should be able to get all the information they need about their day on the slopes, right from their goggles. So, someone wearing a pair of Airwaves can quickly see their location on a map of the resort they're at -- the system comes ready to display maps for more than 600 resorts worldwide, and automatically knows which one is being skied. Because of the internal gyroscope, it allows users to turn their head and have the map rotate as a result.

Because the goggles are tied to smartphones, the system also lets a wearer coordinate with one or more friends, and to see where they are at any moment during a day of skiing. And that's true whether those friends have a pair of Airwaves or not. That's because anyone who downloads the Airwave mobile app can be tracked as they ski. However, only those with the goggles can see their friends' location on the heads-up display, as well as how far away they are, and what is the best route to take to meet them.

Airwave is not just about mapping, finding friends, or playing music, however. It's also about giving skiers a lot of information about how they're performing. Because of its built-in sensors, it offers a range of analytics about all kinds of things -- how high a jump was, and how it compared to previous jumps; how fast a run was, maximum speed for a run, the amount of vertical drop in a run, a list of runs taken over the course of the day, and so forth. It compiles all that data and can display it on demand -- or it can save it for viewing later on the Airwave community Web site.

Other features allow a wearer to see a text message without having to pull out his or her phone, and even to send one of a number of pre-determined replies straight from the goggles. For someone using an iOS 6 device, the display will show caller or text-sender ID.

Airwave is designed to work in conjunction with a GoPro camera, allowing the wearer to see the camera's view in the heads-up display. The system allows for users to overlay ski performance and mapping data with the video from the GoPro camera, and to upload all of that to the Airwave community Web site. Some of this can be done in real time, since the device can send data packets via the smartphone to a user's account. It also allows for linking photos taken from the smartphone to where they were taken, because of the GPS data, meaning that users can create event playbacks that show where they were, the runs and vertical feet they skied, who was with them, and photos from throughout the day -- all synched to music of their choice.

The heads-up display can show jump analytics or a range of other performance data. Oakley

To be sure, Airwave is not the only ski goggle that offers a heads-up display. Zeal Optics' Z3 goggles also have a small heads-up display and can track skiers' speed, vertical distance covered, and where they skied. But that product requires waiting until later to see all that information on a map, whereas Airwave shows it in real time.

Oakley knows that developers will want to get their hands on the system, and so it has released a software development kit that will allow anyone to create new applications. Already, there are third-party heart monitor and stop-watch apps.

The Airwave goggles go on sale on October 31, the same day that iOS and Android apps will be available.

 

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