Last updated February 2nd 2015
Outdoor sports buffs are abuzz with news of novel augmented-reality ski goggles. The RideOn prototype looks like a regular pair of protective eye gear, but the Israeli visual tech and engineer experts behind the new product say RideOn is “the world’s first true augmented reality (AR) goggles for skiing and snowboarding.”
The idea that Israelis — who live in a hot country — would revolutionize the way snowboarders and skiers move may seem ridiculous. But Alon Getz, CEO and cofounder of RideOn, tells ISRAEL21c that while the film Cool Runnings was based on a Jamaican bobsled team “with nowhere to practice, Israelis have a ski resort and tens of thousands of Israelis go to Europe every winter to ski.”
Getz, along with two friends, software engineer Ori Kotek and entrepreneur Zur Erez, came up with their idea of augmented-reality glasses for navigating, playing and interacting through eye movements.
“We wanted to find our locations on a ski resort map instantly, or to quickly contact each other when we’d get separated. We wanted to do these things without having to take our gloves off, or use our phones,” says Getz.
They created a floating UI (user interface) with which you can interact without losing visibility. Whereas the Oakley Airwave displays information in the bottom corner of its goggles at all times, the RideOn system can identify if you’re moving or inactive and shows content on the screen depending on your position.
“When you’re skiing, we remove all unnecessary information from the display so there’s only non-textual data… so you can easily understand what you’re seeing,” says Getz.
Soon, those days of fumbling with the ski map and trying to find your run will be a thing of the past. With RideOn goggles, you can get off the chairlift, stop and look around, and the screen in front of you will tell you how to get to red, green, black or blue runs.
It’ll also navigate you to the nearest ski lodges, restaurants and bars as well as find ski-lift locations and check queue wait times.
The goggles also have a play feature that lets you compete against yourself and your friends in various games and improve your time and accuracy.
“What distinguishes RideOn is our delivery of a true AR experience, derived from a seethrough display that projects data onto the center of your field of view, not on the side,” says Kotek.
The see-through display used in the goggles is not Israeli. The software and technology is. “There are displays on the market and each has its own uniqueness, disadvantages, advantages. But there’s no other consumer product that we know about for AR outdoor sports,” says Getz.
VC vs Crowdfunding
Getz and Kotek met at Rafael Advanced Defense Systems when they worked on fighter-jet vision technologies. They’ve been hitting the ski slopes for the last 10 years together.
“We wanted to do something that we enjoy,” says Getz, 45, in explaining why they branched out to AR ski goggles. “This is the first product. If it goes well, we’ll use this technology for other outdoor sports, motorcycling, small aircrafts — but first, ski/snowboarding.”
With the algorithms and technology ready for action, Getz, Kotek and their business partner, Erez, had to make a decision: venture capital backing or crowdfunding.
They chose a 31-day indiegogo campaign (ending February 19) in which they hope to raise $75,000. In the campaign’s first 48 hours, they collected more than $22,000 in pledges.
“One of the biggest mysteries for us is that while we love this product, we wanted to know if everybody will love it,” says Getz. “Crowdfunding is the best way to validate the need for this product.”
The three founders consulted everyone they knew.
When they put their prototypes on the table at SOSA joint working space in Tel Aviv, other innovators in the room were enthusiastic about the product. On a recent snowboarding trip to Austria, they recorded random people’s reactions to the goggles and posted the video on YouTube.
“Everybody that puts these goggles on their head is amazed,” says Getz.
The team wants to know what other features to add to its goggles and hopes the crowdfunding community will offer ideas.
Getz and Kotek say they expect a sizeable demand for their goggles, which target a worldwide ski market of around 115 million people in 80 countries. They believe RideOn goggles will revolutionize the ski experience, assuming they achieve their goal and are able to fund production.
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