Beyond Airwave: How Oakley is building the ultimate smart sports glasses

No Smartphone Required - Eventually

Tracking sports performance with smartphones, GPS watches or bike computers isn't perfect for one big reason. You have to look down.

“I would like smartphones to go away,” says Calilung. “Get rid of them altogether and migrate some of that tech up (to the head).”

“Looking at your watch when you're running isn't a big deal,” says Saylor. “But depending on the terrain and what you're doing at the time, if we can bring that information to your vision space, without having a negative impact on your performance, that's a great opportunity for us.” He also hints at audio as well as display performance info, stating that vision and hearing are the senses that are part of the plan to do something innovative.

The future according to Oakley involves around six to seven wearables on our body – sensors, watches, smart glasses – all communicating to each other.

“How do you create your own personal network so we can have as few devices as possible on your face? The smartphone is the enabler now but probably less so in the future as we look to capitalise on other wearables on your body.”

More after the break...

Pointers From Oculus Rift

Oakley's not just learning lessons from Airwave, it's getting pointers from all sorts of AR and virtual display tech. The Oakley R&D team was impressed by the awesome Oculus Rift gaming headset – Calilung tried it out at CES, like Stuff – but there's always room for improvement.

Don't be a Glasshole

“As far as AR, it definitely paints the picture for us of how can we create a non-intrusive experience,” says Saylor. “If I'm going out for a run or if I'm going out for a bike ride, I don't want a dongle hanging off the side of my face. Or even more importantly, I don't want to have to give pointers on how to use the technology without getting kicked out of a restaurant. The discretion of the device is key.”

“Oculus and some of the other wearables in this space, they define the experience for you. You might want to run, you might want to go ride a bike and go have coffee after that. That could mean modular, that could mean adaptable but that's definitely in our thought processes – how do we let you do what you want with the device?”

Awesome Optics

One advantage for Oakley is that everyone from Olympic athletes to regular runners, cyclists, snowboarders or golfers is already working out or competing in sports using its eyewear – whether it's for the style, the protection or the optics. All that's left to do is add the benefits of a digital display without compromising on any of that 30 year heritage. Sound tricky?

Saylor says Oakley won't compromise on vision and it's pushing tech partners to address the issue, maybe even to the point where AR can enhance optics and prescription lenses. “There's a world of AR and a world of heads up displays,” he says. “And the tech is not at a place where we would call it acceptable in terms of optics and clarity. The Recon Airwave is what's acceptable right now. Is it ultimately what we want and what our customer wants? No. Is it better than any other option right now. I think it is.”

But the technology is moving quickly and that's why Calilung says Oakley will be quick to launch its new “electronic eyewear” devices. “People are hungry for this. And they'll snap up whatever they can. Maybe we're right and maybe we're wrong with what we decide they want - but we have to throw something out there and get people using it.”

Words: Sophie Charara 

READ MORE: Dash Smart Earphones are amazing wireless earbuds that track your fitness, too

You have to login or register to comment.