Published on March 10th, 2014 | by Greg0
Heads Up! Recon Instruments Snow 2 Helps You Own The Slopes
Wearables are hot this year- but a lot of the buzz is around fitness watches, or Google Glasses. What if you could combine the two- take a heads-up display, and embed it in your athletic apparel? After all, so many sports require headwear already- swimming goggles, for instance, or football helmets. One company has seen into the future, and started exploring it- and we were pretty happy with the results for a very new technology.
Recon Instruments a few pieces of interesting gear, but our focus today is on their Snow 2, which they call “the world’s most advanced wearable computer”. Picture a dual-core CPU with Bluetooth, Wifi, and GPS, all embedded into a cute, durable unit with a tiny monitor- and add a ton of sensors, like gyroscopes, an altimeter, thermometer, magnetometer, and accelerometer. The high resolution display creates an image equivalent to a 14″ picture at five feet away, which is enough to see data nicely but not enough to block your vision- they claim the data is “ designed to enrich but never disrupt your experience” and that boast about “crisp, easy to see graphics available when you want them, and out-of-sight when you don’t”.
And vision is everything- because the Snow 2 fits inside your ski/snowboard goggles. After all, everyone has to wear them anyway while on the slopes, so you won’t stand out like that guy who keeps looking to the side of his glasses during conversations and clearly interacting with another world. That person may or may not be wearing a heads-up display, but they definitely cannot take their glasses safely down a mountain. The Snow2 units are built for durability and ease of use even with gloves on, with special functions specifically aimed at active, outdoor use. They sound complicated, and they are a triumph of miniaturization, but installation is pretty simple. They can be purchased pre-installed into a variety of models from major brands like Smith Optics, Oakley, or Zeal, or used with other “Recon-ready” goggles from Uvex, Briko, Alpina, and Scott.
As you might expect, you can install a variety of apps, from social networking to weather and lift alerts. There is an interesting social component, a cloud-based system called Engage created specifically to help you review/post/share your trips and experiences. And there is even an SDK and API for developers. But we focused on testing out the basics- the five top-level screens for the most essential information. Broken down into the components that everyone is most likely to use, you can switch easily between real-time statistics, navigation and maps, buddy tracking, smartphone connectivity, and a screen for apps and music player control. You might wonder at controls- and don’t worry, you won’t have to practice flicking your eyebrows or blinking patterns. The wireless remote on a wristband is cute and seems like it should be a prop for a movie, and allows simple controls. Your iPhone or Android smartphone, if carried nearby, can also interface with the Recon- pairing may take a few tries and some time and troubleshooting, and we needed to follow the directions precisely for success. We didn’t try connecting it to external cameras or heart rate monitors, though the capabilities exist.
Skiiers and snowboarders of any stripe, type, or skill level will appreciate the metrics- seemingly accurate speed, vertical descent data, distance traveled, and even things like airtime (ours was pretty minimal, but this could be a nifty stat for the right audience). We weren’t quite so confident on the buddy system, but perhaps because our buddies didn’t have the system and we had occasional cellular issues. Weight probably isn’t an issue for most folks, but the Snow2 is tiny- only 65 grams or so by itself. One thing that might be critical- the battery life is rated at six hours- which should be enough for most runs but not quite enough for anyone planning on spending the full day on the mountain or ice. Further, at colder temps, we’d expect less. Available now though sold out at press time, directly from Recon Instruments for $399, the Snow2 is one of the coolest gadgets we’ve seen for alpine use, and the perfect tool for skiiers and snowboarders who want to join the “quantified self”… or just compare airtimes.