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I’ve been excited about the prospect of augmented reality on ski goggles ever since Oakley first tried it over a decade ago with its short lifespan. Airwave helmet. Unfortunately, its foray into augmented reality left a lot to be desired: the Airwave was comically sized and required a wrist-worn controller. Plus, at around $600, they were prohibitively expensive for what looked like an experimental product.
But display technology has come a long way since then. And I waited patiently for another company to come up with a better version that actually works. So I was delighted to discover Rekkie, an independent manufacturer that last year launched its first pair of glasses with an integrated head-up display.
At $349, Rekkie’s offering is still pricey, but much closer to what you’d pay for high-end non-smart ski goggles. More importantly, after several days of snowboarding with Rekkie’s goggles, I found the AR to be advanced enough that helmets like this finally felt useful.
At first glance, Rekkies almost look like a standard pair of ski goggles. The most noticeable difference, however, is a box on the right side of the strap that houses the power supply, as well as the Bluetooth and long-distance radios. On the outside of the pack is a button to navigate the glasses interface.
At around 4 inches long and an inch thick, the bag is extremely bulky, and that’s one of the few downsides to using goggles. Weighing in at 253 grams, the Rekkies are more than twice as heavy as my regular pair, but I didn’t feel like much when wearing a helmet. And, if your headset is black, it may even (sort of) blend in. But if your headgear is white or light colored, it will stand out. Practically, it doesn’t matter much, but it looks a bit silly. It also means you can’t wear the goggles under your helmet, if that’s your preference. Neither was a dealbreaker for me, however, and I found I could easily hide the battery with an over-helmet mask.
But the aesthetic drawbacks are more than outweighed by what Rekkie glasses can do. Their signature feature is a dashboard that displays your current altitude, speed, and a compass. If you’re skiing with friends who also have a pair, you can see how close they are and use the accompanying app to see their location on the mountain. The glasses can also control music and show your daily notifications and stats.
The actual screen is a small panel about 1 inch that sits in the middle of the frames near the bridge of your nose. This setup means you can swap out the lenses for different lighting conditions (a silver set is included, and the company sells additional colors). But Rekkie’s lenses are slightly different from those made by other eyewear manufacturers. The top third of each lens has a reflective coating on the inside to make the display more visible.
This means that if you’re looking up at the screen, the lenses are darker than when looking straight ahead. I didn’t mind the difference, but some people might find it distracting. Rekkie said he was considering tweaks that would make the effect more subtle.
More importantly, I found the screen to be easy to see in almost all lighting conditions. The dashboard and menus were clearly visible in bright sunlight and on cloudier days. The screen is also positioned in such a way that it’s not directly in your field of vision when descending the mountain so that overlays won’t get in the way.
This all may sound complicated, but the interface is extremely easy to navigate. Long press the battery side button to bring up the main menu, then look up, down, left or right to select a function. At the top is your stats, where you can see how many runs you’ve completed and how much elevation you’ve covered. On the left is “texts”, which is a bit of a misnomer as it shows recent notifications from all apps (on iOS you need to enable notification previews); on the right is “music” to control media playback, and on the bottom is the live dashboard. From the latter, you can also press the button to hide everything except the time.
I tended to switch to this “clock only” mode often, especially once I got up to speed. It may sound weird, but the clock was one of my favorite features. I don’t wear a watch, and checking your phone repeatedly on a cold day can quickly drain its battery (and your fingers).
Also being able to control my music and podcasts from the glasses was very helpful. I usually wear AirPods while boarding, and reaching under my helmet or stupidly shouting “Hey Siri” into my ski goggles always gives me a bit of anxiety. So I was more than happy to be able to rely on my glasses for these tasks.
Although I complained about the battery size, the battery life of the glasses is actually impressive. The company claims that the device should last around 10 hours, although it could last longer depending on the intensity of its use. I never managed to drain the battery for a full day of snowboarding, even in snowy 10 degree (Fahrenheit) conditions. The glasses even lasted two consecutive days without recharging.
I was initially concerned that the uncovered charging port under the battery would leave it exposed to the elements. I’ve ridden in more than one storm with heavy snowfall where no part of the goggles could stay perfectly dry, and I wondered if I might inadvertently damage them. But it turns out that the device was more water resistant than I had expected.
Rekkie said the goggles aren’t technically waterproof, but were designed to withstand the kind of moisture you’d expect to encounter during a typical day’s skiing. I (unintentionally) put this to the test on a stormy day in Park City when I managed to fill the Rekkies with snow after falling into a pile of powder. The snow froze on the screen and they were temporarily unusable. But I dried them at the end of the day and was able to charge them again as if nothing had happened.
Rekkie’s goggles become even more useful if you’re skiing with a friend who also has them. Once you form a “group” in the app, you’ll be able to see how far apart you are from each other. There’s no limit to how many people can be in a group, but the dashboard will only show the two people closest to you (although you can see everyone from the app). You can also compare stats with your party from the stats menu in the glasses.
The system uses your phone’s cellular signal and the goggles’ onboard radios to track each other. This means that if you have a service, you can see how far away they are both in the dashboard view and in the Rekkie app. If one or both people don’t have service, the device’s radios have a range of about 2,000 feet, so you should be able to see if someone is on the same route as you. , but not if it is, for example, on the other side of the station.
In practice, I found the friend tracking feature most useful when my hubby, who was also wearing a pair, was on the same trail as me. I tend to hit the slopes much faster than him, so we often lose sight of each other. Seeing the number scroll by as it approached was both reassuring and good for my impatience.
I could see the feature being even more useful if you’re going off-road or into the backcountry. It’s easier to lose friends in the trees, so having an idea of their distance can help ensure no one is left behind.
But while the app is useful for seeing your friends’ locations, unfortunately it doesn’t do much else. For example, there’s no way to use the app to see what stats your googles tracked while you were on the mountain. As a long time user of ski tracking apps like Trackswhich map all your runs and log your stats throughout the day, I’m disappointed Rekkie doesn’t offer this.
Gallery: Rekkie Smart Snow Goggles Review | 4 Pictures
Gallery: Rekkie Smart Snow Goggles Review | 4 Pictures
The founders told me that there are plans to integrate statistics into the application, as well as several other features. They’re also working on new safety features, like one that will automatically turn off the live scoreboard once you reach speeds of 15mph or more, as well as ways to communicate with resort ski patrols in the event of an emergency. issue.
New features will be available through app and firmware updates, so if you buy a pair now, chances are you’ll see their capabilities expand over time. It’s a good thing when you invest $350 in glasses that you will only use a few months of the year.
Overall, I was impressed with the usefulness of the Rekkies. While I was initially enthusiastic about a pair of goggles that could track my stats and project my real-time speed and location, I underestimated the added convenience of features like friend tracking, media controls and an always-on clock. We’re at a time when many big tech companies have made ambitious promises about the future of augmented reality. But those promises, like the global augmented reality glasses that Meta and others have hinted at, are likely still years away. Rekkie’s smart glasses may be a more niche product, but they show that we don’t need to wait years for useful, non-fancy AR apps.