Google has been able to generate an enormous amount of buzz with its Glass project but when you leave our little tech-world bubble and speak with normal humans you find that most people have no idea what Google Glass does, or even what it looks like. Google has so far been unable to capture the mass markets attention, even though their product has a much talked-about “solution for everyone.” Oakley has just released their own version of a personal heads-up display, called Airwave, and they’re not even pretending to go after the mass market.
The Oakley Airwave is a wearable device for skiers by skiers. And snowboarders. Built into a traditional pair of snow goggles, Airwave requires no extra device that the user won’t be used to. Telematics such as elevation, speed, route-maps, and even other skier’s locations are shown in the periphery of the normal field of vision. This allows for the HUD to be useful but unobtrusive, which can literally be a lifesaver when you’re hurtling down the slope at 60+MPH or executing a Flying-Burrito-Monster-480.
While the tech isn’t necessarily more impressive than Google’s – which it is not, and also lacks any kind of app ecosystem – the Airwave is interesting because it could work better than the Glass. Any by work better, I mean make it into real users’ lives. These goggles aren’t for the San Fran crowd or for anyone who knows what an API is. They are for athletes and hobbyists. The snow-sports industry racked up almost $1B in sales last year, and it is not uncommon for the hardcore to upgrade their gear every year. Having the latest and greatest on the slopes is a must, and wearable tech presents an exciting new frontier in the search of those dollars.
In the short-term, Glass is only going to be interesting to techies, while Airwave be interesting to athletes the world over. Oakley is already thinking about expanding this technology into more sports such as golf, running, and cycling. Products trickling down from top-tier athletes to rich poseurs to the mass market is a well-trodden and well-understood method that could get HUD in front of the middle of the country much sooner than us bloggers raving about Glass.
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