Recon Instruments MOD Live Heads-Up Display Review: Terminator On Ice? (PICTURES)

Recon Instruments MOD Live Review: Terminator On Ice?

The 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.

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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