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Android ski goggles offer augmented reality display

Feb 26, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 1,470 views

The “RideOn” project for augmented reality ski goggles has won its Indiegogo funding. It runs Android on a 1.2GHz ARM CPU, and offers hands-free control.

The need for high-tech, Android-based snow goggles like RideOn and Recon’s Snow2 is hard to fathom for skiers like us, who expend every last Joule of mental energy on staying vertical. However, we realize that others who ski with more ease have some attention to spare, so as long as you don’t run over us, more power to you!

The Isreal-based RideOn team has already made its Indiegogo minimum, and is close to surpassing $100,000, with funding open through Mar. 20. There are still several dozen $519 packages before they roll to $549, and an available $899 package currently adds an extra lens, Bluetooth headphones and heart rate monitor, and a neck warmer.

(click images to enlarge)

Recon Snow2

The main difference between RideOn and Snow2 is that instead of providing a mini display on the side of the goggles, the RideOn device projects an image directly into your right eye. This takes a few minutes to adjust to, say the developers, but then you get used to it, and enjoy the benefits of “true augmented reality” with a see-through display.

You control the UI by simply glancing at different superimposed icons, such as those shown in the photo below (and demonstrated in the video at the end of this post). We see no evidence of an internal, eye-facing camera in the device’s detail photos and and specs (see farther below), so we assume the RideOn figures out which icon you’ve selected based on inputs from its motion sensors. And for those of us who do need to focus on “real” reality, RideOn’s motion detector switches the UI to an “extremely minimal” mode when skiing downhill, saving phone calls and texts for when you come to a stop.

RideOn UI
(click image to enlarge)

RideOn uses Clear-Vu display technology from French startup Optinvent that provides a view that is three times larger than Google Glass. The UI’s icons appear to sit about 15 feet out, virtually speaking. The Optinvent display offers high transparency and super bright (about 3000 Nits) graphics “even against glimmering snow,” say the developers.

RideOn external (left) and internal detail
(click image to enlarge)

RideOn integrates an HD camera for taking video, and GPS for tracking the locations of both you and your friends. If you have a phone in your pocket, it uses Bluetooth to piggyback its 3G connection to make calls and exchange text messages. Multiplayer games and other special features are available when multiple RideOn users with the RideOn mobile app are skiing or boarding.

WiFi is available as well for an Internet connection, and no data connection is required for many baked-in features. These include ski resort navigation and orientation, single-player games and challenges, such as placing virtual wickets for you to ski through that appear as you ski. Other features include weather, speed, and altitude information. Eventually, the developers plan to add an algorithm that automatically estimates a lift’s wait time just by looking at it.

RideOn architecture (left) and internal electronics
(click image to enlarge)

The Android-based software consists of sensor fusion modules with algorithms that can calculate accurate, low-latency orientation on the move without the need for expensive magnetic beacons and high-end inertial sensors, say the developers. RideOn’s orientation technique finds the relative direction of the see-through display (and thus the user’s line of sight) using always-on camera input.

The fusion modules include:

  • Location and orientation module — Fuses data from RideOn’s sensors and GPS with “the cooked video stream from the camera to generate high frequency, accurate, and low-latency head position and movement readings.
  • Computer graphics rendering module — Fast-updating, real-time rendering for seamless augmented reality, based on the pistes and points-of-interest database, updated using the mobile app, and displaying up-to-date online information including friends’ locations, plus pistes and lifts statuses.
  • Communication module — WiFi and Bluetooth controller for playing remote music, making phone calls, sending text messages, uploading and downloading RideOn stats, and installing firmware updates sent from the mobile app.

Specifications listed for the RideOn goggles include:

  • Processor — unspecified dual-core 1.2GHz ARM-based SoC
  • Memory — 1GB RAM; unspecified internal flash
  • Display — Optivent projection system with 24° diagonal view about 3000 nits brightness
  • Camera — HD video cam
  • Wireless — WiFi; Bluetooth 4.0; GPS
  • Micro-USB port — for charging and data transfer
  • Audio jack
  • Sensors — accelerometer, light, altitude, temperature, and others (unspecified)
  • Other features — mobile app; replaceable, polycarbonate anti-scratch, anti-fog outer lens with UV400 protection, 3-layer foam, and EN 174:2001 impact protection
  • Battery — 2200mAh for up to 8x hours, 24 hours standby
  • Weight — 240 g
  • Operating system — Android 4.4.1


RideOn introduction


“Micha explains RideOn’s hands-free user interface”

Further information

RideOn is available on Indiegogo through Mar. 20 in packages of $519, $549, and $899 (the eventual standard retail price). The $899 package currently includes an extra lens, Bluetooth headphones and heart rate monitor, and a neck warmer. All devices are expected to ship in September. Stretch goals include multiple colors, music controls, and turn-by-turn navigation for major ski slopes.

More information may be found at the RideOn Indiegogo page and the RideOn website. Additional demo videos are available at the RideOn YouTube channel.

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