Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Data Glasses Again - A New Player In Town

Remember those Recon Jet goggles that are essentially a computer you wear on your face? The ones with microprocessor and sensor-loaded pods and battery packs that block peripheral vision, and a miniature monitor to take up about 1/3 of your forward vision?

Who needs to see where they're going when there's so much data to digest?  (Recon Jet)
Well, they're not the only game in town anymore. Lots of tech and performance junkies are now declaring the new Garmin Varia Vision as the "heads up display cyclists have been waiting for." By leaving out some of the microprocessing power and built-in sensors, Varia Vision instead syncs with a rider's other devices, such as their smartphone, their Garmin GPS-enabled ride computer and the new Garmin Varia rear-view radar system.

The Garmin Varia Vision is designed to attach to the user's own choice of riding glasses.
By "outsourcing" a lot of the sensors and power to the rider's other devices, Garmin's heads-up display is a bit more compact, uses smaller batteries, and offers longer run-time than the more self-contained Recon Jet glasses. The Garmin unit is also designed to be attached to the user's own choice of eyewear. All of these differences mean that the Garmin costs "only" $400 -- at least $100 less than the Recon wearable computer.

Garmin has a video to extol the virtues of Varia Vision display. In it, there are images that are supposed to give us an idea of what the rider would see with the device:

Dear God! I hope it doesn't actually look like this! Did we just get sucked into a video game? 

Are these Tron-like images supposed to make people want Varia Vision? Sorry, but it has the opposite effect on me.

Look familiar?
Check out the video here:

And it's not just for performance junkies, but Garmin also makes the claim that their "In-sight Display" is a great tool for commuters:

"I have this vision of keeping my focus forward," reads one quote from the video. "I have this vision of fewer close calls on my commute," reads another.

Want to keep your focus forward? Want fewer "close calls" on your commute? Then keep your focus on the road and your surroundings -- not on a computer display, whether mounted to your handlebars or right in front of your eyes. How important is it to get performance data on commute to work when you're sharing the road with over-caffeinated cell-phone-addled drivers? Do you need the In-sight display to tell you when you have an incoming call? Do you really need GPS directions to tell you how to get to work?

Even when all this info is being projected onto a tiny "heads-up" display on your glasses, just trying to process it mentally takes your focus off the road, and the possible dangers that can crop up in a split second. As far as I'm concerned, that's what leads to more close calls.

There is such a thing as data overload. When I'm riding -- especially in traffic -- the best computer I have available to me takes no batteries:

The rest is just a distraction.


  1. I've always wondered about the need for turn by turn GPS. I almost always ride places where I know where I am.

    You check out the Hammerhead GPS device. It's the most useless device I've ever seen.

  2. Based on the promo video, I'm sure I'd crash if I were to look at the display while riding. Won't it require the eyes to refocus everytime I look at it? Does Google Glass have a similar problem?

  3. My cousin bought a Harkey adult trike, with a Hagen all-speed, has no chain tensioner on it , so having to build one.