Using the Oakley Airwave 1.5 heads-up display with Apple's iPhone

Posted:
in iPhone edited February 2014
While Google Glass positions itself as an all-purpose heads-up display, the Recon Instruments Snow2 is a more targeted, mountain-specific sports accessory meant to provide users with data and feedback on the go. AppleInsider recently had the chance to test out the Snow2 integrated with Oakley's Airwave 1.5 goggles when paired with Apple's iPhone.

Recon


Recon sells the Snow2 as a standalone $399 accessory that can be inserted into compatible goggles. The device also comes preinstalled into some headsets, including the Oakley Airwave, which we were provided to test and which retails for $649.

Why would you want a heads-up display while on the mountain? For us, the biggest appeal was having instantly accessible, GPS-enabled interactive trail maps while at a new resort. Beyond that, it also features run tracking, jump analytics, a current speed display, a compass, friend tracking, music controls, and visual alerts for phone calls and text messages.

Unfortunately, extreme weather conditions prevented us from being able to adequately test the Snow2 HUD for a full-fledged review (more on that later). However, we did get to spend enough time with the equipment to share our detailed hands-on impressions.

Setup

Recon


The Airwave comes in an impressive two-shelved box that's large, but plenty sturdy to hold the equipment. Inside, the goggles come with a carrying bag to hold everything, as well as a protective soft cloth bag to prevent scratches from occurring on the lenses.

Once the goggles were out of the box, we plugged them into our MacBook Pro via an included micro USB cable to update them. Software for the Snow2 accessory is managed through a browser plug-in, and we had no problems using it on OS X.

Pairing the Snow2 with our iPhone was also easy, after which we were required to install a third-party application to really get the most out of the goggles. Unfortunately, both Recon Instruments and Oakley make their own, separate iOS applications, but in our tests we found that both connect to and work with the Airwave.

We opted to use the Recon Instruments Engage application, because it has been updated more recently than Oakley's offering. Both applications appear to offer the same functionality, and we suspect that Oakley's software is just a "reskinning" of Recon's efforts.

It's also important to note that the Snow2 does not require connectivity with a smartphone, like Apple's iPhone. The system can still operate without a connected device, though users will lose features such as music controls, friend tracking, and the ability to share data online while still on the mountain.

Recon


Perhaps most surprisingly, the Snow2 runs a heavily modified version of Android 4.1.1. While it is unmistakably an Android interface, the home screens have been modified to make it easy to see available content and flip through it. And yes, despite it being an Android accessory, it connects just fine to iOS.

Also included with the Oakley Airwave is a special oversized wrist controller, perfect for navigating the heads-up display's menus while wearing large, bulky ski or snowboarding gloves. It fits snugly around the wrist with velcro, is large enough to be placed on the outside of a ski jacket, and seems durable enough to withstand the elements. We really enjoyed this wrist controller.

Usage

Our biggest concern in using the Airwave was how much of a distraction it would be, having a screen in our face at all times. We're pleased to say that we don't think this heads-up display is a safety concern --?it's placed in the bottom right corner of the goggles, out of the way of anyone's field of vision. You have to "work" to look at the screen, and when you do, it's easy to read.

It's also well designed and no one around will know you are using a heads-up display. This isn't a geeky attention grabber like some other devices.

We took the Airwave with us on a trip to Banff in the Canadian Rockies, and hit the slopes at Sunshine Village. While the Snow2 HUD is a winter-oriented product, it is not impervious to the laws of physics, and the dead of winter in Canada proved to be too much.

Recon


On our first trip up the open-air lift, we were able to use the Airwave fine, zooming in and out on trail maps and seeing where desirable runs were located. Using the built-in GPS and compass, the map updated in real time to show us where we were located, what direction we were headed, and what runs we could take to get to the bottom of the mountain.

Then, it stopped updating.

The screen stayed on and the compass seemed to work, but the GPS wasn't updating and our current location wasn't being refreshed. Attempts to change to other screens yielded no results.

The next day we tried again, this time to test the speed screen. It worked for a bit, we got up to about 30 miles per hour, and then the speed reading went blank. No GPS.

We contacted Recon Instruments and were informed that the Snow2 has a lower temperature limit of -4 Fahrenheit. As it turns out, Banff was quite a bit colder than that on our trip --?so cold, in fact, that the lifts at Sunshine Village were only open half of the day, until the temperature warmed up enough to safely operate them.

Recon


To be fair, Apple's iPhone -- which is not advertised as a winter sports accessory -- is also rated to -4 Fahrenheit. Our iPhone was kept in an airtight case for protection, but once we took it out and exposed it to the elements for a brief period of time, it simply shut down.

So while the failure was disappointing, it's still hard for us to severely knock the Oakley Airwave or Recon Instruments Snow2 for these temperature limitations. Yes, it is a winter sports accessory that would naturally face cold temperatures, but our Canadian trip was especially cold --?cold enough to shut down the mountain for half the day and keep the slopes mostly empty of riders. A disappointment, but not a total failure.

Unfortunately, it never warmed up quite enough for the Snow2 to operate properly while out on the mountain, so most of our testing was left to be done in climate-controlled areas, rather than while coming down the slopes. And while the HUD seemed to work adequately in these scenarios, we can't assign it a score based on idle indoor testing.

Recon


As it turns out, both the Snow2 standalone accessory and the integrated version with Oakley Airwave are sold out for direct sales for the remainder the current ski season. We'd hope that future revisions to the hardware would feature some sort of temperature-resistant improvements to handle more extreme conditions.

Recon Instruments is planning to release another sports heads-up display this year called the Jet, which will act as a pair of sunglasses and include an integrated high-definition video camera. Recon hopes to position that product as ideal for athletes in warmer climates, including cyclists, triathletes and runners.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 30

    This looks friggin' AWESOME!

  • Reply 2 of 30
    muppetrymuppetry Posts: 3,331member

    Looks like a useful device, but the review makes no sense to me. Where, exactly, are the components that were exposed to below -4 F? Not the HUD in the goggles presumable, since, firstly, that kept working and, secondly, it should not be that cold inside the goggles. So where is the GPS unit, and why would one ever design it to be be exposed to the elements?

  • Reply 3 of 30
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by muppetry View Post

     

    Looks like a useful device, but the review makes no sense to me. Where, exactly, are the components that were exposed to below -4 F? Not the HUD in the goggles presumable, since, firstly, that kept working and, secondly, it should not be that cold inside the goggles. So where is the GPS unit, and why would one ever design it to be be exposed to the elements?


  • Reply 4 of 30
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    How can you focus on a display so close to your eye? I suppose if you have perfect vision it might be possible, but for me, being slightly far sighted and wearing glasses for reading, I can't focus any closer than say 100 mm or so.

  • Reply 5 of 30
    mstone wrote: »
    How can you focus on a display so close to your eye? I suppose if you have perfect vision it might be possible, but for me, being slightly far sighted and wearing glasses for reading, I can't focus any closer than say 100 mm or so.

    I don't use prescription lenses, so I can't comment on that. I will say that the screen appears much further away than it actually is, thanks to the use of prisms/mirrors (Recon claims it's the equivalent of a 14-inch screen 5 feet away).
  • Reply 6 of 30
    tylerk36tylerk36 Posts: 1,037member

    I am buying a pair.  Gonna use them when I mountain bike.  They are sick.

  • Reply 7 of 30
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mstone View Post

     

    How can you focus on a display so close to your eye? I suppose if you have perfect vision it might be possible, but for me, being slightly far sighted and wearing glasses for reading, I can't focus any closer than say 100 mm or so.




    They would be including lenses to make the display in focus when your eyes are focused at infinity.

  • Reply 8 of 30
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mstone View Post

     

    How can you focus on a display so close to your eye? I suppose if you have perfect vision it might be possible, but for me, being slightly far sighted and wearing glasses for reading, I can't focus any closer than say 100 mm or so.


     

    Not sure how the Oakleys work, but most HUDs (like Google glass) employ optics, called collimators, to make the virtual image appear in focus at infinity.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reflector_sight

  • Reply 9 of 30
    bcodebcode Posts: 141member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by muppetry View Post

     

    Where, exactly, are the components that were exposed to below -4 F? Not the HUD in the goggles presumable, since, firstly, that kept working and, secondly, it should not be that cold inside the goggles. So where is the GPS unit, and why would one ever design it to be be exposed to the elements?


     

    At rest this would likely be true, but once you start moving 20+ miles/hour, any warmth provided by your face would be whisked away pretty readily.  For most days at the hill it would likely be fine but it's been unusually cold in Banff this year, -22° F on the regular.

  • Reply 10 of 30
    muppetrymuppetry Posts: 3,331member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by bcode View Post

     
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by muppetry View Post

     

    Where, exactly, are the components that were exposed to below -4 F? Not the HUD in the goggles presumable, since, firstly, that kept working and, secondly, it should not be that cold inside the goggles. So where is the GPS unit, and why would one ever design it to be be exposed to the elements?


     

    At rest this would likely be true, but once you start moving 20+ miles/hour, any warmth provided by your face would be whisked away pretty readily.  For most days at the hill it would likely be fine but it's been unusually cold in Banff this year, -22° F on the regular.


     

    I guess I disagree. I use goggles any time that it is single digits and below, and the temperature inside the goggles is definitely much higher than outside, even with vents. And even if you were correct and the temperature inside the goggles did go that low, why would the HUD still work, but not the GPS?

  • Reply 11 of 30
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by muppetry View Post

     

     

    I guess I disagree. I use goggles any time that it is single digits and below, and the temperature inside the goggles is definitely much higher than outside, even with vents. And even if you were correct and the temperature inside the goggles did go that low, why would the HUD still work, but not the GPS?


    Because not all electronic components have the exact same temperature tolerances? I wouldn't think this would need explaining.

  • Reply 12 of 30
    bcodebcode Posts: 141member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by muppetry View Post

     

     

    And even if you were correct and the temperature inside the goggles did go that low, why would the HUD still work, but not the GPS?


     

    I would guess that the HUD is able to withstand lower temps than the GPS chip -- that and the HUD is actually inside the Goggles...  It looks like the GPS chip and other computing hardware is mounted on the outside edge, exposed to the elements (see image from another post above).

  • Reply 13 of 30
    muppetrymuppetry Posts: 3,331member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by sessamoid View Post

     
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by muppetry View Post

     

     

    I guess I disagree. I use goggles any time that it is single digits and below, and the temperature inside the goggles is definitely much higher than outside, even with vents. And even if you were correct and the temperature inside the goggles did go that low, why would the HUD still work, but not the GPS?


    Because not all electronic components have the exact same temperature tolerances? I wouldn't think this would need explaining.


     

    So instead of explaining, you just guessed.

  • Reply 14 of 30
    muppetrymuppetry Posts: 3,331member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by bcode View Post

     
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by muppetry View Post

     

     

    And even if you were correct and the temperature inside the goggles did go that low, why would the HUD still work, but not the GPS?


     

    I would guess that the HUD is able to withstand lower temps than the GPS chip -- that and the HUD is actually inside the Goggles...  It looks like the GPS chip and other computing hardware is mounted on the outside edge, exposed to the elements (see image from another post above).


     

    I can't really tell where the GPS unit is from those images, but if you are correct, and it is outside the goggles, then that would explain it but seems like a very poor design choice.

  • Reply 15 of 30

    I wasn't aware IC's were sensitive to cold. Batteries and moving parts, sure, but since when is any SoC sensitive to a mildly low temp like -2F? We use tablets and SSD-based ultrabooks up on the slope, and the only sensitivity in both I've noticed is the LCD screens getting sluggish around -25F. If anything, I'd expect the HUD display to fail before any of the integrated features.

     

    Also: the website photos make the HUD look like a color display, but in your photo, it looks strikingly monochromatic. Which is it?

  • Reply 16 of 30
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 13,001member
    muppetry wrote: »
    So where is the GPS unit, and why would one ever design it to be be exposed to the elements?

    Weren't the very first consumer GPS units made for the outdoorsman out in the elements? The US government did not put up those satellites up for you and I to get to a dinner party without getting lost.
  • Reply 17 of 30
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Cash907 View Post

     

    I wasn't aware IC's were sensitive to cold. Batteries and moving parts, sure, but since when is any SoC sensitive to a mildly low temp like -2F? We use tablets and SSD-based ultrabooks up on the slope, and the only sensitivity in both I've noticed is the LCD screens getting sluggish around -25F. If anything, I'd expect the HUD display to fail before any of the integrated features.

     

    Also: the website photos make the HUD look like a color display, but in your photo, it looks strikingly monochromatic. Which is it?


    It's a full-color display, which is essential for labeling green, blue and black runs on the mountain.

  • Reply 18 of 30
    muppetrymuppetry Posts: 3,331member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post

     
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by muppetry View Post



    So where is the GPS unit, and why would one ever design it to be be exposed to the elements?




    Weren't the very first consumer GPS units made for the outdoorsman out in the elements? The US government did not put up those satellites up for you and I to get to a dinner party without getting lost.

     

    It's not difficult to make electronics robust, but when size and weight matter, as they presumably do for this application, it would seem easier simply not to expose the unit to the elements. Either way, it would appear that they got it wrong here, and neither hardened it nor protected it.

  • Reply 19 of 30
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Cash907 View Post

     

    I wasn't aware IC's were sensitive to cold. Batteries and moving parts, sure, but since when is any SoC sensitive to a mildly low temp like -2F? We use tablets and SSD-based ultrabooks up on the slope, and the only sensitivity in both I've noticed is the LCD screens getting sluggish around -25F. If anything, I'd expect the HUD display to fail before any of the integrated features.

     

    Also: the website photos make the HUD look like a color display, but in your photo, it looks strikingly monochromatic. Which is it?


     

    Early supercomputers  were supercooled -- and modern computers typically have a large cooling system (i.e., thermal paste, heat sinks, fans, venting, etc...). I is pretty easy to conclude that an extreme temperature in either direction would have an effect - especially on the interconnect between ICs and the board they are mounted on since the materials are usually made of very different materials. Call this a a guess if you like but a bit of research would answer your question @Cash907.

  • Reply 20 of 30

    mildly -2 ? Where are you from? There's nothing mild about -2. When was the last time you enjoyed skiing at -2? Did you not read the article? It was so cold the mountain was shut down until it was safe because of the cold. No matter how bundled up you are at -2 you are not going to have a fun day on the mountain. This stupid toy will not save the day. 

     

    on that point how does this measurably increase my pleasure of snowboarding or skiing? Seems like a pointless niche device and now I'm going to have to listen to a bunch of idiots on the slopes arguing who had the "better specs". Lord just stay focused on the slopes. I don't want to have to rescue anyone again.

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