Augmented reality has been around for years now, without really setting the world on fire. Remember Rocket Racing League? (Nope.)
Google Glass? (Yep.)
These days it feels like AR is the most obvious example of new tech which in blockbuster movies changes the world, but simply passes through the real world with not a lot more than a sharp initial buzz. It comes and goes with a collective “meh”, kind of like 3D TVs and cider.
But a new Indiegogo project hopes to bring AR to outdoor sports with a subtle touch that like its graphic overlays, enhances rather than overwhelms the experience.
RideOn CEO Alon Getz turned his experience into developing AR projects for the defence industry, in pilot heads-up displays and computer vision technology, toward making the slopes a more interactive place for skiiers.
His faith in AR, as opposed to the “completely fabricated” VR experience which can frighten people, is that “it’s entirely real, and only enhanced with some virtual information”.
And RideOn seems to have everything going for it that generally makes a crowdfunding success worthwhile. For starters, it looks the goods on the outside:
It doesn’t try to do too much and doesn’t need any other gear, such as a smartphone or bluetooth headset, to interact with. Instead, it opts for a interface in the sky when you look up, and you select options simply by staring at them for a second:
Then it’s game on, like a real-life 1080 Snowboarding.
Getz’s favourite feature in the RideOn goggles is being able to spot your friends under all their expensive Hilfiger gear:
“One of the biggest problems with snowboarding in a group of people is getting lost from them,” he said.
“Then you have to take off your gloves, fish your map and phone from your pocket, and waste precious daylight freezing your fingers off to get back with your buddies.
“During our test trips with the prototypes, friend finder reduced this whole process to a glance at your friends in the far distance to pop up the floating ‘text/call’ button, and then another glance to send.
“But our Indiegogo backers cited the navigation features as what excited them most.”
You can also send your mates a quick catch-up message.
Hmm. How long is that queue time?
RideOn launched a crowdfunding campaign on IndieGogo on January 20. It didn’t exactly blast past its modest goal of $75,000, taking nearly five weeks. But with 17 days to go and pre-orders still coming in, it’s comfortably headed for production stage.
That lukewarm approach to a project that seems fairly foolproof could be indicative of the previously mentioned low buzz around AR, or maybe it’s just a case of too many backers getting burned by crowdfunding dreams that fail to deliver the reality. The problem a lot of crowdfunders face is the product they back and buy – particularly in the tech space – can go under after its initial run. Or they evolve into a much better V2 which sees the original backers left holding an expensive, clunky prototype.
Getz says RideOn is working hard to ensure it won’t happen with their goggles, offering software updates with new games and features once RideOn hits the slopes.
“For original backers, these updates will always be free,” he says. The Indigogo products are also cheaper than the anticipated retail price, which will be “slightly more than a high-end GoPro”.
Getz admits there are similar products on the market, such as Oakley Airwaves and Recon Snow2, which also utilise a small heads-up display in the corner of their goggles.
They show useful information and stats, Getz says, but differ from augmented reality.
“Our goggles have embedded a wide, bright see-through display positioned directly over one eye, and projects graphics, information, and features as if their floating in the distance in front of you,” he says.
They’re also hands-free, in contrast to bulky external devices like wrist-bands or phones which have to be used with other smart goggles.
“Our vision is to bring navigation, communication, and fun AR features to the world of action sports in general,” Getz says.
“Motorcycle, aviation, scuba, and more outdoor activities that require participants to keep their eyes ahead and not use their hands — this is where AR tech is most needed, in our opinion.”
Here’s the goggles in action: