Best Heads Up Display Glasses For Cycling 2016
All sorts of wearables have dominated the tech industry this year. A lot of these wearables have focused on sports and fitness with brands like FitBit and Garmin dominating the sector. For cyclists, cycling watches have been a godsend. Trackers like the Garmin Edge 520 have proven indispensable at keeping track of your performance. The main disadvantage of these trackers is that you have to take your eyes off the road to see the data. This is where heads up display glasses come in handy.
These are smart glasses that combine the concepts of fitness tracking and augmented reality to keep the rider updated on real time metrics without taking his or her eyes off the road.
Fitness Tracking + Augmented Reality
Alongside fitness tracking wearables, augmented reality has also experienced an upsurge in the last one year. From products like Microsoft Hololens to the upcoming Magic Leap, AR has gained a foothold in the tech industry.
Cycling smart glasses take advantage of AR technology to keep the rider aware of their performance through real time data. These glasses work by adding on a tiny display on normal cycling glasses.
This display shows metrics like heart rate, distance, power, speed and duration. This virtual data is augmented onto the rider’s view of the road ahead, hence the term augmented reality.
As for fitness tracking, there are two options. The heads up display glasses can either come with their own sensors or they can connect to external sensors. Most smart glasses for cycling combine data from their own sensors with that from other connected sensors.
So you might find cycling eyewear with a GPS tracker to calculate speed, distance and duration but connects to an external heart rate monitor to get metrics on heart rate, calories and VO2 Max.
Who are They For?
In the 2016 Rio Olympics, the United States team of cyclists got a chance to use one of the smart glasses we will review further below. With wins often being determined by millisecond differences, it was crucial for the professional cyclists to stay sharp in terms of their performance without losing focus.
Naturally, professional athletes stand to benefit most from new fitness tracking technology and this applies to cyclists too. Having constant awareness of their performance metrics gives them an edge in both training and races.
Enthusiast cyclists will also love the efficiency of smart cycling glasses. Most glasses will even display a map of where you are cycling, great for those who love off-road riding.
You can see how far you have ridden, for how long and how fast you are going. Connect other sensors wirelessly and you can see your heart rate, power rating and a host of other information.
For the ordinary cyclist, you may not find much value in these heads up display glasses. Most are quite pricey, costing over $300. If you cycle once or twice a week just for fun or exercise, you might want to consider getting a cheap fitness tracking watch instead. But if you have the money and want to experience the novelty, go ahead and splurge.
Below, we look at the top heads up display glasses for cyclists. Read through the brief reviews and choose the one that best fits your needs.
1. Recon Jet Smart Glasses
If you have $500 to spare then grab yourself a pair of these top notch cycling glasses. So not exactly the cheapest tech gadget you can buy. Is it worth it?
The right side of the eyewear contains the main computing module. Here you will find the controls, the camera, charging port and the display itself. The battery module is fitted onto the left side to ensure a comfortable balanced feel. The minicomputer comes with 1GB of RAM, 8GB flash memory, and a removable lithium-ion battery.
The design is generally a bit over the top. Even when on a bike with all the riding gear, these heads up display glasses still stick out awkwardly making you look like Robocop. In the future, the company would do well to create a more minimalist design.
It is fitted with various sensors including an accelerometer, gyroscope, pressure sensor, magnetometer and an IR sensor. It also includes an onboard GPS module. These sensors are enough to provide you with number of metrics including speed, distance, power and ascent/descent.
If you want more data, the glasses come with a number of connectivity options you can use to stream data from external sensors.
You can connect through ANT+ and Bluetooth 4.0. You can connect to any sensor as long as it runs on the ANT+ wireless protocol or is equipped with Bluetooth.
For control, the glasses come with a touch pad and a two button rocker. The touchpad can be used in all kinds of weather, whether your hands are bare or gloved. The average battery life is a disappoint 4 hours through you can carry an extra battery for longer usage.
This is a great device with quite a number of limitations in terms of ease of use and battery life. It feels like a great product that has a long way to go before it can be a truly mass market gadget. Considering the price, we would advise caution before making a purchase. These are the kinds of products where it is usually a good idea to wait for the second edition.
2. Everysight Raptor Cycling Smartglasses
While Recon Jet smart glasses make you feel like some kind of cyborg, the Everysight Raptor glasses fit right in with your riding gear. At a glance, you would not tell that they are heads up display glasses.
In fact, the Raptor heads up display glasses stand out from others in this article in one crucial aspect, the lack of a protruding display. Recon Jet and Solos both have those cyborg-like projectors at the front.
Instead of resorting to these awkward protrusions, these eye glasses are equipped with beam technology along the top edge. It beams transparent images directly into your line of sight. The entire surface of the lens thus becomes a display. By cracking the design challenge, Everysight Raptor has gained an edge in the industry.
By putting augmented information right in front of your eyes, it helps reduce eye strain from having to look sideways every time you want to glance at your metrics. While it was announced in 2015, the product itself is set for launch before the end of 2016.
Currently, no details on pricing or specific specs are available.
3. Solos Smart Eye Wear
Solos smart eye wear is a major competitor to Recon Jet with its humble roots on Kickstarter where its campaign raised over $120,000. It holds an edge to other cycling smart glasses on the market in that it has already been tested in a professional scenario.
We have already mentioned how the 2016 Rio US cyclists used the Solos smart glasses in their races.
We do not know the exact price yet but the company says it will cost around $500, a similar range to the Recon Jet glasses. But Solos beats Recon Jet in a few areas. For one, the design is great.
Instead of a large protruding computer on the side of your head, Solos has a more minimal style. The display unit is kept small and blends in well with the rest of the glasses. They also eschew a camera or onboard GPS, some of the features that make the Recon Jet awkwardly large.
The glasses connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth. You can also connect them to external sensors via ANT+. The glasses themselves do not contain any sensors and you have to rely on external ones for metrics like speed, duration, intensity and distance.
When connected to your phone, you can make calls using the glasses with integrated microphones and speakers ensuring clear communication. As for power, a lithium cell provides 6 hours of operation time, 2 hours longer than Recon Jet. There is no GPS or camera to gobble down your battery power.
Solos smart heads up display glasses have been designed with balance between aesthetics and functionality in focus. While they are greatly dependent on your smartphone, they are comfortable, stylish and good enough for professional and hobbyist cyclists.
4. Garmin Varia Vision
Garmin is an undisputed leader when it comes to fitness wearables. Its range of smartwatches and fitness trackers are some of the best around. This year, they launched their own heads up display glasses for cyclists. The display comes solo with no glasses attached. Garmin says you can attach the display pod to any of your favourite cycling glasses.
As you would expect from a Garmin product, the design is ruggedly beautiful. Like the Solos glasses, it opts for a small projector arm to avoid the awkward cyborg look of the Recon Jet. But compared to other glasses in this article, Varia Vision is quite basic.
For one, it does not have any sensors, not even a GPS unit. It connects only to an Edge 520 or Edge 1000. It is basically a remote screen for your Garmin Edge. It can tell you when you have a phone alert but beyond that, there is nothing else it does.
With sharp colors and an easy to navigate menu, it performs excellently as a display monitor. But for $400, it feels just too expensive not to mention that you need to have a compatible Garmin tracker to connect it to. Most other heads up display glasses have many more functions at a similar price range.
Our verdict: Unless you already own a Garmin Edge 520 or 1000 and would appreciate seeing the data on your glasses rather than looking down, the Garmin Varia Vision is simply not worth it.
5. SENTH IN1 AR Cycling Glasses
This China-based eyewear follows the Recon Jet in creating feature-packed smart glasses. It has a camera with which you can take HD pictures, a mic and speaker for calls and a lithium-polymer battery that the manufacturer says will last 5 hours.
The Indiegogo project managed to raise almost $70,000 last year.
It comes loaded with a pack of sensors including an altimeter, a barometer, an ambient light sensor, magnetometer, gyroscope and a GPS module. If these sensors are not enough for you, there is Bluetooth to connect to external sensors and trackers.
Despite being loaded with hardware, the heads up display glasses manage to retain a stylish design. But do not even think about wearing them off the bike, you will look awkwardly out of place.
A Brief Buying Guide
Currently, there are not many options to choose from in the market. There are only six or so cycling smart eyewear worth reviewing. It is a technology that is still in its infancy and uptake by the market is still low.
But as wearables get more popular, expect to see more and more heads up eye glasses pop up. They will come with added features and hopefully, lower prices.
For now, you cannot go wrong with the top smart glasses in the market. Solos and Recon Jet are two leading products packed with exciting features to improve your performance.
When comparing them with others in the market, check for issues like comfort, display quality, ability to connect with other sensors and battery life. Considering that they are designed for outdoor use, check that they have a high waterproof rating such that a heavy rains oak will not damage them.
Depending on which glasses you buy, you may have to get additional trackers and sensors. For instance, most smart cycling glasses do not come with a heart rate monitor. You need a wrist fitness tracker or chest strap to monitor your heart rate.
Finally, look for smart glasses with extra features. For example, the Recon Jet smart glasses face a front facing camera, which ensure that you capture the action as well as the data. As with any other tech device, try to find out what other people’s experiences are:
- Is it comfortable?
- Is it easy to use?
- Is it actually helpful?
- What is the overall user experience?
Best Heads Up Display Glasses For Cycling 2016
It is clear that heads up displays for cyclers are still in their early stages. Too many of the mentioned products have design and functionality limitations. None provides a long enough battery life. But the technology is promising and in the next year or two, you can expect more and better options in the market. Looking forward.
Which is your smart cycling eyewear of choice? Leave your comments below.