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RideOn ski goggles bring augmented reality to the slopes

You’ve probably heard about head-ups-display (HUD) ski goggles before, which can display data from a phone right inside them. Recon Instruments makes a pair, and has collaborated with companies like Zeal Optics and (more recently) Oakley to create a number of different iterations of the idea.

But here’s the deal: We’ve tried Recon’s HUD goggles — multiple versions of them, in fact– and while they’re definitely a neat piece of gear, they don’t really offer a true heads-up display. That is to say, they don’t overlay graphical information over what your field of vision in the way a jet pilot’s helmet does for the window of his cockpit. Instead, Recon’s “HUD” is located down in the corner of your vision, so you’ve got to look away from what’s ahead of you for a second, refocus on the info displayed on the screen, and then snap back to looking at whats in front of you. It’s not the most convenient setup.

This was one of our biggest complaints about the device when we took it for a spin back in 2013, and despite the fact that Recon has released a handful of new versions of the HUD over the years,  this fundamental design flaw hasn’t changed.

Thankfully, Recon isn’t the only company making HUD goggles anymore. Direct-to-eye display tech has been progressing at a feverish pace over the past few years, and now, a startup by the name of RideOn is on the cusp of releasing a set of goggles that might actually bring augmented reality to the slopes.

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Instead of a tiny LCD display positioned down in the lower corner of your vision, RideOn’s eponymous goggles are equipped with a thin transparent display positioned directly over your eye — sort of like Google Glass, but bigger, thinner, and far less dorky. With this configuration, the goggles can display images directly to your eye without obstructing your vision; a crucial feature when you’re blasting down a hill full of moguls and don’t have a spare second to look away.

In addition to this nifty HUD tech, RideOn boasts a myriad of other sensors under the hood. Inertial sensors and GPS work together to determine where you’re looking, while an integrated camera and special computer-vision algorithms can identify things that you’re looking at. With some clever programming, all this data is woven together to create helpful features, such as buddy tracking, navigation info, and even a hands-free user interface. To switch modes, all you need to do is look up, and hover over whatever virtual button you’d like to press.

The device is still in the early stages of development, but RideOn has recently launched an Indiegogo campaign to jumpstart the production process. If you back the project now, you can lock down a pair of the company’s high-tech goggles for about $520. If everything goes as planned, they expect to ship the first units to backers sometime in September.