New jet fighter style heads-up display for cyclists

Video: 4iiii Sportiiiis uses LEDs and speaker to provide ride data

Canadian company 4iiii have developed a new device for cyclists that was inspired by the heads-up displays found in jet fighters. The Sportiiiis attaches to virtually any pair of riding glasses and uses seven multi-colored LEDs and a speaker attached to a small boom to provide the rider with data.

This means the user doesn't have to take their eyes off the road to glance at a bar-mounted computer, heart rate monitor or power meter. “The idea came to me when I was running, looked down at my watch and missed a curb,” Ian Andes, president of 4iiii, told BikeRadar.

The idea behind the system is to move the most crucial data to where runners or riders can see it without having to take their eyes off the road. In a fighter jet, the information is generally projected onto a screen. According to Andes, for cycling use "this technology doesn’t exist in a cost-effective manner". "Nor is it practical to an athlete," he added. "Since the unit is attached to the head, as opposed to a fighter pilot looking at a screen, it would cause motion sickness in many athletes.”

The small ANT+ enabled unit mounts to virtually any sunglasses

So instead of providing information about speed, distance travelled and calories burned, it was decided to provide the rider only with what Andes thinks they really need to know: “Are they in the ‘correct’ zone for what they're trying to accomplish?” The LEDs guide the users to that zone, with red equalling bad, green equalling good and yellow or orange somewhere in between.

The speaker – which sits on the boom and has no ear buds to make it safer and race legal – provides further information, such as "watts: 215" or "6.15-minute mile". And because the LEDs are just out of the primary visual plane, they shouldn’t distract the rider. “All data is displayed in your secondary vision,” said Andes. “You can still see the road in front of you, while seeing where you are in relation to your desired zone in your secondary vision.”

World Cup downhill cyclists have secretly dabbled with similar technology for several years; a staff-controlled communication system tells them if they're on pace with the leader's time by way of helmet mounted LEDs within the racer's visual frame.

From behind the lens

Andes decided to use ANT+ wireless technology on Sportiiiis rather than Bluetooth because it's the de facto standard in the athletic industry. “There are more profiles, less power consumption and more modules in the field for us to launch on," he said. "As well, ANT+ is, from our experience, easier to work with and doesn't charge as much to get involved.”

The device will thus be compatible with any ANT+ enabled device, meaning it should easily connect with products from Garmin, Timex, Adidas, SRAM, Bontrager, Saris and Wahoo. “Anyone who has a broadcast module, we can read from it,” said Andes. The Sportiiiis will begin shipping next month starting at US$199 with final component pricing to be announced.

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