hud

3starstechdarkblueThe Recon Instruments MOD Live heads-up display for snowboarders and skiiers (about £320 without goggles) is the first truly decent attempt to turn you into Terminator On Ice, and put information about your location, performance and communications right in front of your eyes as you hurtle down the side of the mountain.

Using a small screen embedded in the right side of the goggles - there are several models available and you can mix-and match easily - it connects to your Android or iOS phone to bring up details about text messages and calls, uses its own GPS system to track how fast you're travelling, where you are on the mountain and other data points about your performance, and can also control your music. When you plug the HUD back into your Mac or PC it displays details about your travels on a handy and well-designed website.

In practice the goggles are easy to use, thanks to an included Bluetooth armband, which controls the device with a simple D-pad and back button. The GUI is a bit laggy but is easily readable in different light conditions, and is straightforward enough to get to know without any leafing through manuals. The screen is bright and clear, and the HUD is packed with features.


But there are also some big problems which makes them less of an obvious buy for winter sports nerds than you'd assume.

First, while the HUD is usable, it's fiddly. Switching between screens is slow and clunky, the GPS 'map' with piste locations and directions isn't very clear or useful, and it's not obvious how to hook your friends up and track their positions on the mountain - one of the coolest-sounding, but least practical features. For a premium product, it feels a bit half-baked.

This lack of usability builds into the second issue - it's annoying to use, both before and during your runs. Skiiers already have enough plates to spin when it comes to equipment - keeping straps tightened, gloves seamless, headphones fitted and so on - without messing around trying to turn on their HUDS and sync them to their phones before heading downhill. To fit into this routine, the HUD needs to be seamless and idiot proof, which it isn't really.

recon

Above: The MOD Live is available for a number of goggle types, including Uvex goggles (above)

And then when you're actually skiing it's impossible to ignore that the HUD is distracting. To their credit, Recon Instruments make a point to ask its users to show discretion and pay attention to the mountainside, but we found it difficult to locate the middle ground between ignoring it and using it. And yes, we did fall at least once trying to break our speed record while looking at the screen and not the hill. It's not by definition unsafe, but it feels risky in the wrong hands.

The main problem with the HUD, however, is that it's just too easy to imagine what it should be like.

Despite its undoubteldy cool tech, sci-fi and video games have killed its chances of looking futuristic in the flesh. You expect the HUD to overlay over real-world objects - like those augmented reality iPhone apps you never use. You want it to know when to get in your way and when to recede into the background. You want it to talk to you, record video automatically, make you look better than you are. It doesn't, and for the price, it's not impressive enough to justify as a simple tech folly - unlike the Oculus Rift or Google's Project Glass, for instance.

For the right skiier - ideally the one who already has everything else in Snow and Rock - the Recon HUD is a useful and intriguing piece of kit.

For everyone else it's a bit of a disapointment: an exciting glimpse into what might be possible in a few years time, but nowhere near being an essential purchase.

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  • Recon HUD Goggles

    Do you remember when you used to dream of being the Terminator, with a heads-up display pointing out the location of your targets and mission status? <a href="http://www.reconinstruments.com/">The Recon HUD</a> is like that, just replace 'targets' with buddies, and 'mission' with speed, location and other key information about your run. <a href="http://www.reconinstruments.com/">It's embedded in a pair of specially designed goggles</a>, and sits comfortably just below your normal eyeline for quick glances during runs. It also syncs with your phone, to save data about your run and play music, check email and see incoming calls.

  • Red Mutiny Helmet + Redphones

    Helmets are pretty much a must on the slopes these days - but that doesn't mean you have lose your edge - or your tunes. All <a href="http://www.burton.com/red-protection-mens-mutiny-helmet/278584,default,pd.html">Red</a> (that's the brand, not the colour) head protectors, and those of many other brands, are designed to have flat earphones inserted for easy - and relatively safe - listening to music while on the ski lift. We went for a pair of '<a href="http://www.burton.com/red-protection-mens-redphones-premium-dj/278589,default,pd.html">Redphones</a>', which have a handy remote and connect to any music player.

  • Motorola RaZRi

    The Motorola <a href="http://www.razri.com/uk">RaZRi</a> is a decently specced mid-range Android smartphone, which also happens to be nicely suited to using on the slopes because it's both splash-proof and totally white. Yes, we might lose it in the ice, but once we find it the device will probably still be working.

  • Burton Hackett Snowboarding Jacket

    Burton have been a well-known (and pricey) fashion leader in snowboarding gear since the 70s - but it's their high-tech innovations with natural-feeling fabrics that grabs our attention. <a href="http://www.burton.com/mens-hackett-snowboard-jacket/276401,default,pd.html">The Hackett Jacket</a> is a good example. Feeling just like a flannel shirt with a cotton hood, it's actually incredibly warm with its 'Thinsulate' lining, and is both waterproof and light. You won't feel like you're wearing a snow jacket at all, and if you're lucky no one will notice the rest of your 'hoody' is missing.

  • Earbox Hoody

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/12/10/hoodie-with-embedded-headphones-earbox_n_2269990.html">The EarBox hoody has headphones built into the hood</a>, making it a great choice for travelling, skiing and lounging around after you're done for the day. It comes with headphones included, but slip in a pair of Redphones (see earlier) and you'll get even better performance.

  • Icebreaker Merino Wool Thermals

    The Icebreaker brand is one of the priciest around for thermal underwear - and for a reason. It's high tech, <a href="http://eu2.icebreaker.com/Why-Icebreaker-Merino/what-is-icebreaker-merino,en,pg.html">promising up to a month of extremely warm, breathable protection</a>, all without getting smelly, wet or stretched, but also all-natural since the secret is Merino wool from sheep, not a laboratory. It's a great fusion of tech and natural fibres, and should keep you warm on the slopes in the depths of winter and sun of spring.

  • GoPro Hero 3

    We love the <a href="http://gopro.com/?gclid=CL7Uutz4gLUCFTDMtAodUV8AHg">GoPro</a> - it's an incredibly powerful, light HD camera that comes with a waterproof casing making it perfect for off- and on-piste use. Attach it to your helmet with the included mounts, or buy extras to clip it to your ski poles, snowboard or anywhere else you can imagine.

  • Ski Tracks App

    Available for iPhone and Android, the Ski Tracks app is a brilliant little download. Using GPS alone - no data costs involved - it can track where you've been, how fast you travelled, how many runs you've done and your altitude, and overlay it on a map of the area. It's simple and it works.

  • Heated Skiing Gloves

    Unsurprisingly your hands get cold when skiing. But they don't have to. <a href="http://www.skiequipmentuk.co.uk/shop/products/2011-12_Snowlife_Liion_Heat_GTX_Womens_Ski_Glove.htm?ref=gmc">These Snowlife Lithium-Ion gloves</a> are pricey, but if you have bad circulation (which is a thing, right?) or just want to be warmer, they'll be perfect.

  • Arctic Snowball Crossbow

    If you go to a place made of snow, and you're surrounded by snow, eventually you're going to want to hit someone with snow. That's perfectly understandable. But do it right, with this <a href="http://www.firebox.com/product/5555/Arctic-Force-Snowball-Crossbow">Arctic Force Snowball Crossbow.</a>