British-Columbia-based company Recon Instruments is using GPS tracking to take designer ski goggles to a whole new technological level. The goggles use “heads-up display” instrumentation, which includes sensors and GPS receivers, to gather statistical data for serious skiers like velocity and slope descent information and is run by a controller attached to either the wrist or goggle’s strap.
This set looks sleek, and it probably should, considering the $600 price tag; the Airwaves allow skiers to hit the slopes to measure rate of speed and distance; the lenses are protected to prevent fogging over and keeps skiers’ eyes shielded from up to 100% UV rays. Other features of the “heads-up display” (which shows on the lower right of the inside lens) include altitude /downhill measurement and hook-up to a smartphone to receive text messages or phone calls and play music (for instance, from iTunes).
Smith I/O Recons
Smith’s goggles contain much of the same features as the Airwaves and cost around $650. In addition, the Recons allow for the swapping out of multiple lenses depending on sunshine or cloudy skies and, on the non-distracting “heads-up display,” include a time-telling feature on the lens screen.
Zeal Optic Z3s
Costing around $550, the Zeal Optic Z3s are reportedly the best functioning, most reliable of the three but do not have the large array of measuring statistics the others do. Unlike the Oakleys, the Optics cannot hook up to smartphone technology. They do however have lenses with a “Polarized Automatic” element which adjusts to outdoor light levels automatically.
Weighing in on the Verdict–Are the Goggles Worth the $450+?
One author (and serious skier) tried all three models. His conclusion? Very faulty equipment for the price. The Oakleys, even after rectifying his experience with the manufacturers, would not charge up for days on end and gave him cryptic error messages, nor would the device allow the controller to close out an initial program (even forcibly) or restart the goggle software. In short, he wasn’t even able to use the GPS technology on the goggles. The Smiths after a few days wouldn’t exit out of the tutorial program for hours and contained other errors in the GPS program. The author had few problems with the Zeals, until the time came to transfer the goggle-GPS-recorded data to his online account, for instance recording the wrong (previously set) date and the wrong distance skied for various days.
The data doesn’t justify the price for the usage you get from it, and the information gathered doesn’t really help improve performance (unless, perhaps, you’re an Olympic skier). But with all the bugs worked out, the future GPS technology goggles will be a cool gadget for hardcore skiers.