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Is the Sportiiiis heads-up display the future of cycling electronics?

Concept, Road Bike 14 1145

I can’t find the exact post, but Byron from BikeHugger has mentioned a few times that he believes Smartphones will almost completely replace cyclo-computers in the near future.  I think that is probably a pretty safe bet, and there is no doubt that iPhone and Android compatible add-ons to track power, cadence, and other cycling specific data that can’t be captured with GPS will continue to be developed and introduced at an increasingly rapid pace. Garmin announced this week that they are launching an iPhone/Android app and there are already numerous mounting systems on the market that allow you to interface a smartphone with your bike.

Perhaps in the future though, you won’t need your smartphone to be mounted to your handlebars. Instead, it may stay tucked away in a pocket or seat bag while the relevant data is fed to a heads-up device like the one pictured here.  The Sportiiiis ANT + compatible ‘heads-up display’ for athletes could be a sign of what is come. Currently, the sunglass mounted display system from 4iiii Innovations uses seven multi-colored LED lights and audible cues to provide the wearer with information about heart rate, power, speed, cadence, etc. You can watch the video on the 4iiii website for a better explanation of how it works.

The system from 4iiii Innovations is pretty interesting, but I believe it is only the beginning. As Barry McCauley said in a thread about this on my Google + page, “the full HD/AR (Augmented Reality) Lawnmower Man optics” are still to come. As he goes on to point out, AR goggles are already a reality for skiers so it is only a matter of time before we see the same technology marketed toward cyclists. So I am curious what you think…is this a technology that you would like to try, or a potential distraction from real road hazards? Heads-up displays for cycling are coming whether you like it or not, so now is the time to discuss the safety issue. Personally, I have mixed feelings about a product like this, but I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments.

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  1. bostonbybike October 27, 2011 at 2:52 pm -  Reply

    They could be. The design makes sense since most cyclists use shades anyway. It looks like a good option for performance cycling where information on speed, distance, time is crucial. You could go a step further and maybe even have it integrated with a laser distance meter tucked under your saddle to tell you if that guy behind you is getting too close. Whether UCI allows it, is another story.
    I think it all depends on the design. If HUD is properly designed it should not be bothersome for eyes and should not distract the cyclist.

    But I can’t picture work commuters in Copenhagen in need of such a thing.

  2. Adam Rice October 27, 2011 at 4:22 pm -  Reply

    I think it would all come down to the implementation. My big concern would be with the HUD either being distracting or blocking my view of a hazard.

    My experience using iPhone cycling apps that give spoken feedback has made me a fan of that kind of interface; with Siri, it should theoretically be possible for an app to respond interactively to spoken requests for information (once Apple releases an API for it).

  3. boxbike October 27, 2011 at 5:21 pm -  Reply

    i think the killer app is a cycling-navi-AR APP

    i made some tests by myself with a HMD Display imported from japan. the resolution is to low and the cable stuff is not easy at the moment.

  4. Ross Nicholson October 27, 2011 at 8:52 pm -  Reply

    If it could warn us of traffic on lonely roads and honk a loud horn in plenty of time
    if it could warn us of bad weather ahead for shelter forlorn,
    if it could help us to carry our loads with the shortest way forward
    if it could help us develop our health with the longest way backward
    if it could help us to see the road ahead and warn others of us
    if it could help us save money on good purchases
    if it could remember our trip,
    if it could remember where we want to go and show us the way
    if it could report accidents to police and the history of that way to detectives
    if it could survey the road
    if it could keep track of live stock and grass for the chewing
    if it could watch o’re the crops and schedule harvests
    if it could count Florida panthers and our economic activity
    if it could show road repair crews where to do work
    if it could show us what is behind us
    if it could recharge itself from the wind and sun
    if it could pay our taxes and tolls
    if it could give us a bird’s eye view of our position
    if it could play us our tunes and the tunes of the towns
    if it could narrate the history of the sights that we see
    if it could name all the peaks and valleys and dales that we see
    if it could connect us to everyone else every day
    if it could be 100% recycled
    yes, it might be useful.

    • Nick F November 6, 2011 at 11:39 pm -  Reply

      There’s an App for that.

  5. BruceG October 28, 2011 at 9:23 am -  Reply

    Audible cues? at 35-40kph I can only hear wind and trucks. And there’s no way I’d wear headphones when on the road, though some gumbies do.

    HUD? hmmmm. don’t think it is a good idea. The ciliary muscle that controls accommodation of the eye’s lens is not under conscious control like most skeletal muscles. It is prone to fatiguing more so. To be changing focus between road and HUD will be tolerated poorly by a significant % of the population, especially middle aged riders.

  6. Jack October 28, 2011 at 4:23 pm -  Reply

    Great, now cyclists will be just as distracted as pedestrians and drivers with their “smartphones.”

    100% attention, 100% of the time.

  7. Mick October 28, 2011 at 7:25 pm -  Reply

    @Ross, that was a really annoying way of saying the technology is of no interest for yourself. On a forum like this, I’m not even sure whether you caring for this product is even relevant to the conversation. I’d much prefer to read constructive dialogue, good & bad. I appreciate the development of any technology, and to see technology trickle down & evolve into other aspects of life is interesting & exciting. Certainly this is an example of a technology which is at it’s very infancy (specifically in this particular application … trying to balance cost & function)…thus, without a doubt, it will not appeal to many at this juncture, but as been stated on this site numerous times…you need to start somewhere. In the mean time, I’m interested in the concept & product…not derailing, pompous comments that serve no purpose

    • Androo October 29, 2011 at 3:04 am -  Reply

      Huh, I took it the complete opposite way. I think he was conjecturing of all the ways that it such a technology could be implemented, and the concluding comment was sort of an “of course it could be useful! Where’s your imagination?!” kind of thing.

      But maybe I was the one misinterpreting it. I like my my way of looking at it better.

  8. bryan willman October 28, 2011 at 7:42 pm -  Reply

    fairly similar things have been used on aircraft and race cars for some time.
    having the apparent distance be far enough to not cause eye strain is in issue
    at least in race cars these things disappear into the background of your awareness really quickly, but that is a case where the person has a lot of practice/skill
    we may find that new riders should not use such things, and that people should get used to them before riding in traffic, but once past those thresholds they are likely quite safe.
    i think to be really useful you will need mors than a row of lights
    a “smartphone” – which might or might not have phone service – would provide a really high function computer/display using pretty standard and cheap hardware – though of course that can at least in theory be distracting, just like an HRM or GPS might be today

  9. Steve A October 28, 2011 at 9:53 pm -  Reply

    Seems to me that a consideration is the $$ value that gets locked with the bike versus lugged in at the destination, along with any unplug time. At least a basic cycling computer gets left with the bike.

  10. Mtbikedroid October 30, 2011 at 8:12 am -  Reply

    I think the audible part is great, the led strip not so much, it would be better if the led strip would be molded into the glass frame .. little nervous of crashing with that pointy led think below my eye.

  11. Amoeba October 30, 2011 at 10:10 am -  Reply

    All very fascinating, but: Somehow, the quiet enjoyment of cycling, as in going from ‘A’ to ‘B’ is forgotten, as is the smell of the flowers on a Summer afternoon, or the buzz of the bees and the sound of birdsong out in the country.

    Yes navigation of an unfamiliar route is often useful, but most of this other stuff is pure distraction from what is, or should be pure enjoyment of being out and about.

    There is also the very real environmental impact of all this stuff.

  12. stefanr November 3, 2011 at 2:25 pm -  Reply

    We have toyed around with prototypes in this section a few years ago. The capabilities are seamingly endless, given the fact that a real HUD could display way more context driven and rich information than a classical cyclo-computer. And once you start interconnecting the devices, you will generate every cyclists dream, be it racing against each other or jointly tagging roads. What is even more fascinating is how this is part of a greater scheme: this will introduce Augmented Reality to a broader audience and pave the way towards everyday use. After all, cyclists are being paid for looking a little weird. As for safety: it is probably way more dangerous to turn your head around on an aero-bar, than getting a live feed from a camera mounted backwards. Motor cyclists often end up in accidents when looking away from the road. I can’t wait to use one of these once they are fully developed …

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