By: Benjamin Zirman  | 

Israeli Tech: Ride On If You Dare

As the winter approaches, people’s excitement to hit the slopes and start skiing and snowboarding again grows tremendously. A new Israeli startup has developed the first ever augmented reality goggles that promise to drastically change the experiences of the 16 million people who participate in alpine, free skiing, snowboarding, or cross country. These new goggles have three really cool new features: interaction, gaming, and play! Though consumers spent over 4.5 billion dollars last year on apparel, equipment, and accessories, this augmented reality technology might be the most exciting and interesting thing to ever hit the market.

RideOn was founded in 2013 by three friends, software engineer Alon Getz, entrepreneur Zur Erez, and computer programmer Ori Kotek, with all three sharing a background in the aerospace industry. "We've been doing augmented reality products since 2002, to assist pilots in orientation and navigation. We know how to build AR products, and love skiing and snowboarding, so it felt natural" said Ori Kotek. Getz is the CEO while Kotek is the CTO, and they run a small team containing just three other members. The company had created a prototype and then turned to crowdfunding from February to March 2015 to raise a goal of $75,000. They ended up raising over $113,000 and are ready to start developing their final product. They are offering a pre-order price of $599 for the goggles which will retail for around $899. They hope to start shipping their product sometime in December 2015 or January 2016.

What is augmented reality? One way of putting it is: gluing a phone to your face. The basic idea of augmented reality is to superimpose images, audio and other sensory enhancements on a user’s view of the world in real time. Augmented realities as well as its little brother virtual reality are becoming buzzwords in the tech world. Investors are pouring money into the industry, and companies are placing bets on augmented reality to be the future. The possibilities of this technology could help one learn things about a city, park, or artwork just by pointing your AR-enabled phone at it. Doctors could add digital images of an x-ray onto a mannequin so patients could understand their injury better. Construction can use virtual markers to designate where a beam should go or which structural support to inspect.

RideOn has used this technology and applied it to skiing and snowboarding. RideOn goggles project augmented reality images and features on the snow, so they look as if they’re floating 15 feet in front of you. This allows you to interact with the floating images using head movements without any external devices such as voice activation or wrist watches. You just stare at icons appearing in the sky, your friends, or points of interest, and are able to access information all while keeping your hands warm and gloved, and your phone securely in your pocket. Its software consists of three main modules. The first module is focused on location and orientation fusion, which works by mixing and processing signals from the goggles’ various sensors and GPS. The computer graphics rendering module enables the seamless augmented reality by providing fast-updating, crisp, and rich graphics in real-time. Lastly, the communication module connects with the outside world using Bluetooth and Wifi.

The first main feature of RideOn’s new goggles is interaction. You are able to see your friends around you and interact with them using audio and video. There are options to call friends or send pre-set text messages without moving your hands. You can post videos and stats for anyone who you might have left back at home so they can feel like they are there with you. Even better, you can annoy friends by sending them virtual snowballs! It has never been easier to communicate on the slopes and these new interaction features will allow family and friends to stay even closer connected, putting worried mothers at ease and making friends who are sidelined from injury even more jealous. The days of getting lost on the slope and fumbling with ski maps will be a thing of the past. With RideOn goggles, by simply looking around the screen in front of you will tell you how to get to red, green, black or blue trails. It also has the ability to navigate you to the nearest ski lodges, bars, and restaurants in addition to checking queue wait times and finding ski-lift positions. While shredding the slopes themselves, you will be able to navigate and see your location on a virtual map. RideOn has partnered with a chief ski-mapping database that contains 95% of worldwide major ski resorts. Any holes in the maps will be filled using data from users sent by the goggles so that smaller resorts and ski sites can be included. All of this allows skiing and snowboarding to become safer and easier.

For all the advanced skiers and snowboarders, the last feature of gaming will make the ski and snowboard rides even more fun. You can now chase a shadow of your favorite ski or snowboard athletes down the mountain. In addition, you can ride through a virtual slalom track that only you can see allowing you to compete against your own records and friends’ records for time, accuracy, and skill. This will bring an added element to more advanced winter sport athletes and bring greater competition even on casual runs.

With all these features, safety concerns were raised especially with new skiers and snowboarders. RideOn recognized this and programmed the goggles to recognize a rookie user. The goggles automatically detect motion and switch to an extremely minimal riding mode for those with less experience on the slopes. Even better, your concentration won’t be disrupted by every text messages, calls, and virtual snowballs as they will be waiting for rookies when they have fully stopped and are safe. The goggles hopefully will be safe for users, but unfortunately can’t truly be tested until riders start using them.

On the technology side, RideOn’s goggles are powered by a battery that has more than 8 hours of battery life. Even in the brightest sunlight the display is readable and there is no glare. The goggles have anti-scratch, impact protected lens, water-resistant, and anti-fog technology and will be replaced if they do incur any scratches. You can record Point-of-View video clips of your ride with the built in camera that has HD video recording. These videos can easily be uploaded to social media to make sure everyone know just how much fun and how good you are on the slopes. Also, you can listen to your favorite music with a hands-free interface connected to your phone. A 3G connection isn’t even required as many of the features are stored in the memory of the goggles, including ski resort navigation and orientation, games & challenges, and video recording. Features that will be coming soon are turn-by-turn navigation, various in-ride stats, video chat, video clips with embedded in-ride stats, and more games and challenges. Other new features and algorithms will be added constantly. Additionally, the goggles can work from -4 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit and will protect wearer’s eyes from sun rays.

When the goggles are released, they will be accompanied by a mobile app for the iPhone and Android. The app will add a whole new dimension to the experience by creating contact with riders in your vicinity and your social media friends back home. Furthermore, it allows you to receive data from the App’s online servers and makes it extremely easy to upload stats and videos online. So before you hit the slopes this winter think about ordering RideOn goggles to experience skiing and snowboarding like you never have before.

A small number of companies have already released connected goggles, such as the Oakley Airwave and Zeal Optics Z3, these only give users’ heads up displays in one section of your peripheral vision. “What distinguishes RideOn is our delivery of a true Augmented Reality experience, derived from a see-through display that projects data onto the center of your field of view, not on the side,” explained Alon Getz. RideOn is ready to hit the market and totally revolutionize the snowboard and skiing experience.

RideOn’s product has been getting attention at various conferences and competitions recently. In October 2015, the company was named one of 8 finalists out of 150 companies at EY’s The Pitch in Tel Aviv. They also showcased their product at the Journey conference, Israel’s most prestigious business conference later in October. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since augmented reality is one of the most exciting technological breakthroughs of the current age and RideOn is bringing what looks like a tremendous product to market. With a device that combines the functionality of a GPS with fun features for games and competitions, look to RideOn to possibly revolutionize skiing and snowboarding.