Heads up displays (HUD) are designed to provide real time data to the user while allowing them to focus on their external environment. We have seen these devices in movies and video games and now they are making their way into our everyday lives. While the technology is evolving some companies are already employing it in novel ways.
One such company is 4iiii Innovations who have designed a device to help athletes and exercise lovers to visual and audio feedback of critical work out and/or racing data. The Sportiiiis is a multicolored LED boom that attaches to any pair of glasses providing feedback of various parameters such as heart rate, cadence, power, speed, and pace.
Sportiiiis works in conjunction with ANT+ compatible devices to provide this data. The Sportiiiis attaches to any pair of glasses, sitting on the periphery of the users vision allowing full visualization of the road while providing continuous data. Two capacitive buttons on the unit allow the user to interact with the device with one hand. Besides visual feedback the Sportiiiis also provides verbal information.
The Sportiiiis comes packaged in a clear plastic box with the device visualized through the front of the box. On the top of the package is a list of performance data that the Sportiiiis can monitor such as speed, power, heart rate and cadence. On the back is an image of the Sportiiiis with the various features listed and functions of the device.
Inside the package we find the Sportiiiis boom, a micro USB charging cable, two mounting brackets, ten zip tie wraps and a sheet with the web address for the software download and user guide. 4iiii Innovations sells the Sportiiiis by itself or with an included heart monitor. For today’s review we will look at the standalone version. Since I did not have any ANT+ devices to test with the Sportiiiis, the company was kind enough to also send me their heart monitor as well.
The Sportiiiis unit looks similar to a Bluetooth headset minus the earpiece. It comes in all black and is composed of plastic at the backend where a speaker, multifunction button and micro USB port are found while the boom is composed of a rubber malleable material and contains seven LEDs that can be programmed by position. Like recent Bluetooth headsets the side of this device functions as a capacitive touch sensor called the TipTap that changes the function of the unit with a simple tap.
The speaker is located towards the rear of the device and provides audio prompts when triggered by the TipTap Sensor or by a program setting. In front of the speaker is the micro USB port that is protected by a rubbery shield to keep it safe from moisture. The red multifunction button adjacent to this port is also capacitive touch button, which powers the Sportiiiis on and off while controlling other functions as well.
At the top of the Sportiiiis is a rail for attaching the unit to the mounting brackets.
The configuration software is set up with three setting tabs – Profile, Zone and Setup. From Profile you can set up your name, e-mail, height and weight along with age and gender. This data is used to calculate various performance parameters such as optimal heart rate.
The Zone tab allows the customization of how the LEDs respond to input from the ANT+ sensors. Zones can be set for either running or biking in conjunction with the various sensors that the Sportiiiis can interact with. Specific zone programs can be named and saved from this section of the software.
For instance target heart rate and zones can easily be adjusted by sliding each of the diamonds that correlate to the Sportiiii’s LED’s up or down. The device also has an auto announce option, which provides spoken updates during your workout. Once you’re set click on the “Ready To Upload” button to save these values to the Sportiiiis unit.
From the setup tab you can configure audio volume, auto announce interval, LED brightness and more. Once any changes are made make sure you click the “Ready To Upload” button to save these settings.
Once the software is setup it is time to attach the Sportiiiis to your eyewear; which can be a little tricky at first. 4iiii Innovations provides two mounting brackets allowing the use of multiple pairs of eyewear. The mounting brackets are attached to the glasses using small zip ties. For such a nice piece of tech, zip ties seem like a low end solution to attaching the Sportiiiis to a pair of glasses; however zip ties will attach to most every style of eyewear.
The Sportiiiis boom can be placed inside or outside the lens. Once you find the proper positioning of the mounting bracket simply tighten the zip ties and clip the excess from the ties off. Now the Sportiiiis unit can be slid on and off the glasses although you are left with a zip tied on bracket when not exercising.
4iiii Innovations provides ten zip ties which is nice especially if you make a mistake with your first application like I did. My initial error was not positioning the bracket on the outside of my eyewear before tightening the ties causing me to waste a pair of zip ties.
Now you’re ready to use Sportiiiis for your exercise activity. The red multifunction button turns the device on and off along with switching it between run and bike mode, adjusting volume, pairing new sensors or clearing all paired sensors. If the heart rate strap came with your Sportiiiis then it should be already paired and ready to go.
To pair a different ANT+ device tap and hold the multifunction button until you hear the second set of three beeps. You should hear an audible confirmation when the new device is successfully connected.
The TipTap Button allows different actions with the amount of taps. One tap will provide audio feedback of the currently displayed sensor while two taps will switch to the next paired sensor.
For testing the Sportiiiis was used during workouts primarily running. While the boom is out of your direct line of sight, it will take some time to get used to it being in your field of vision. Overall the Sportiiiis used in conjunction with the 4iiii’s heart rate monitor worked very well.
Target heart rate was achieved by hitting the green in the center of the seven LEDs on the boom. Going over or under will get you into the yellow LEDs while orange and red means you are too far under or over your target range.
Battery life was in the seven to seven and half range, which meant I could get a week and change out of one charge which is pretty good.
Controlling the device with one hand was simple, however there were times when the red multifunction button did not respond to my initial touch and required a second press.
The most exciting part of the Sportiiiis system is that it is continually evolving. The software and firmware are frequently being updated with new features. Plus since it is ANT+ capable new sensors can be added in the future.
The Sportiiiis is a new tool for the workout warrior’s arsenal. It provides real time feedback to help improve performance and results for a runner or bicyclist. Keeping one’s eye on the road instead of looking down at a wrist watch or other performance computing device will help keep the user safer on the road.
Since 4iiii Innovations is consistently updating the software and firmware the Sportiiiis seems like it will only get better with time. If you are an exercise fanatic then the Sportiiiis is definitely a worthwhile investment.
+Can be universally mounted
+Simple to set up
+Works with ANT+ devices
-Zip ties seem like a crude way to mount device
-Multifunction capacitive button did not always register with first press.
-Mounting bracket ties up pair of glasses
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