Wearable Technology Moves to Ski Goggles

Read our Foray into the World of Wearable Mobile Technology

Watching the transformation of mobile devices from basic phones with text-based web browsers to the powerful multi-tasking devices available today has been an experience.

As an avid mountain biker, I’m impressed with those willing to attach an iPhone to their handlebars to track an off-road ride. I try not to crash, but really have no interest in witnessing my phone shatter against a rock. How about those who risk strange tan lines and arm fatigue by strapping their electronic world to their arm before going on a run? Not me; I’ve earned a nice farmers tan from my cycling kit and I don’t really run that well anyway. Fortunately, there’s a logical evolution of devices happening and just now starting to enter the market in the form of wearable technology.

When the term “wearable technology” surfaced recently, I immediately thought back to the fad of Hypercolor, a temperature sensitive, color-changing fabric of the early 90’s. The company produced what looked like a normal blue t-shirt. But when worn, the special fabric turned pink wherever it was warm. It was a great gimmick hanging in the store, but actually wearing a blue t-shirt with pink armpits and shoulders wasn’t all that cool in real life. Of course I had one.

Fast-forward to wearable technology of 2012, and there are some great new products coming to market. In my role as Director of Product Innovation at Active Network, I regularly evaluate new technology against a broad range of active marketplaces from camping and fishing to endurance sports. I’m really excited about the application of wearable technology to most of the markets we serve, that do a great job of bridging the gap between the power of today’s mobile devices and the practical realities of motion and activity. Two intriguing wearable technologies are smart watches and Heads-up Display (HUD).

The term “smart watch” has been well-worn in the technology industry. I think it started with the first calculator watch in the 70’s adorned with rows of tiny buttons. But this time, they are really smart…I promise! The fact that current smart watches run on, or extend existing mobile operating systems greatly increases their potential. The power and underlying “smartness” will deliver most of the content, tracking and connectivity of my current device in a way that’s better aligned with consuming technology in motion.

There has been a lot of media attention on Heads-up Display products lately. From Google to Oakley and Sony, recent announcements show a growing trend towards moving technology into plain view. The cool thing is we don’t have to wait; HUD is already here. Recon Instruments has a product, MOD Live that incorporates an optical display into ski goggles. Along with a number of precise sensors (GPS, compass, accelerometer and more), the HUD unit runs on Android.

Just this week, Recon Instruments launched a public Software Development Kit (SDK) that allows for third-party apps to run on their goggles. I’m pleased to have had access to a preview of the SDK and excited that Active Network is a featured launch partner. We adapted technology from existing mobile apps serving the snowsports market, RTP LivePass and RTP REALSKI, to the heads up display. The result is a unique, content-rich and relevant experience that only requires me to adjust my gaze. A perfect fit for wearable technology…and no pink!

–Mark Roebke, Director of Product Innovation at Active Network , is constantly looking for ways to deliver better experiences through new technology. When he’s not in the lab experimenting, you can find him racing and exploring the trails of Colorado on his mountain bike.