RideOn’s Augmented Reality Ski Goggles Are Mind-Bogglingly Cool
In writing about technology every day for the better part of a decade, I’ve admittedly become a bit blasé about innovation. While I’m excited by new advancements in technology, I’ve seen a little bit of everything—so it takes a lot to really impress me. Once in a while, though, something comes along that totally blows me away.
One such example is RideOn, the maker of the world’s first augmented reality (AR) ski goggles. RideOn’s transparent display projects AR layers and features to create the illusion that they’re actually floating on the mountain around you. The resulting experience is a brilliant cross between real life and a video game.
Take a look:
RideOn allows you to see friends’ locations around you, communicate using audio and video, share stats and videos online, throw virtual snowballs (!), and view navigation directions so you never get lost on the slopes or have trouble finding the lodge. All of this is done by seamlessly projecting graphics onto the world around you.
I spoke to RideOn co-founder Alon Getz for this story and asked him how the idea came about.
“My co-founder Ori [Kotek] and I thought of the idea in 2012 to address a few problems we had on the slopes,” he said. “When you’re on the slopes, it can be tedious to constantly take your gloves off, fish for your phone or map with chilled fingers, and try not to drop it in the snow. We wanted a solution that lets us find each other quickly when we got lost, share locations and trajectories, and communicate with one another without our phones and maps. Other goggles like Oakley Airwave and and Recon Snow2 are similar, but use heads-up display, which is like having a phone floating in the corner of your vision, and bulky external devices like wrist-bands to control the UI. Given our shared professional background in the field of jet pilot visual technology and AR systems, we decided to create a hands-free AR solution, et voila: RideOn was born.”
Indeed, RideOn is the perfect combination of its founders’ professional and personal lives—developing AR technology for fighter pilots, and snowboarding.
Getz says it may take 10–15 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the transparent display. But after that, he says, the entire experience is “comfortable and natural.”
“However, with the AR graphics,” he added, “the experience is somewhere between a video game and real life—somewhat surreal and incredible, and we’re still getting used to that.”
In January, the team took a testing trip to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, where people on the slopes noticed the goggles and asked about them. When they let people try them on, they captured some pretty great reactions:
During testing, Getz and the rest of the team discovered a lot about what works and what doesn’t. For instance, they realized that a UI with ten icons floating in the sky would be a bit too much, so they reduced it to three. They also made some adjustments for safety.
“We discovered that, even though our AR graphics appeared seamlessly on the snow, it was hard not to notice them and lose focus while skiing,” said Getz. “So we programmed RideOn to enter a minimal graphics mode when it detects motion to help the user focus safely on riding. This mode also holds all text messages, calls, and virtual snowballs until the user is stopped and safe.”
After launching a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, the company quickly surpassed its original goal of $75,000. As of this writing, the project has raised over $102,000—with two weeks to go. If you back the campaign by the end of March, you can get a pair of RideOn goggles for a discounted price of $519, likely to be delivered in September of this year.
Getz tells me the company is aiming for a final retail price of $550. “This may seem like a lot for a pair of goggles,” he said, “but when you consider you’re getting a GoPro + the first application of AR to skiing, all wrapped in a high quality pair of ski goggles, we think it’s reasonable.”
Now that RideOn has reached its crowdfunding goal, the company will continue developing software for the remaining features and working with an OEM to optimize the hardware. RideOn will enter final production in the summer, delivering its first units to Indiegogo backers in September—just in time for ski season.
In the future, Getz says he would love to apply RideOn’s technology to other outdoor sports. Until the team has enough resources to conquer that, however, they’re focusing all their efforts on perfecting snow sports.