Most of us associate a HUD (heads up display) with fighter jets or science fiction movies. But such things are real and available for consumers, if not in the configuration you see onscreen.
Take the Sportiiiis for example. It gives you the advantage of an unobtrusive HUD in that it’s hands-free so that you can continue with what you are doing while also being able to see information that normally would be outside of your field of vision.
Now even before we get into what the Sportiiiis is and how it does what it does, where does this HUD device become useful? Try when you’re exercising and need to see the readout being driven by an ANT+ device: these training feedback products clamp to a person or object to provide such details as your heart rate, the speed at which you’re moving, your pace, etc. Obviously you’re not concerned about a HUD when you’re not engaged in a physical activity like biking or running. But when you are, being able to get feedback without being distracted is a really big deal.
Which is where Sportiiiis comes in. At its heart you’ve multi-colored LEDs positioned along the length of a flexible rod. The rod itself is part of a module containing the wireless electronics and activation system — tapping the side of the module not only alternates between the display settings but also provides an audio cue as to what is being done. On the bottom is the activation touch-button — basically an on/off switch — which also lets you activate settings such as switching between running/biking modes and pairing new sensors (audio beeps are used to confirm these changes). Through the use of the LEDS you can monitor your pace, heart rate, power, cadence and speed.
To use the Sportiiiis, you take the included flexible rods and attach the unit to a pair of glasses (be they prescription or sports or sun). Then you bend the boom as needed so that the LEDS can be seen in your secondary vision.
Now obviously a software training program must sync between the ANT+device that is recording the data and the Sportiiiis so as to allow for creating the profiles you want to use as part of the training. So let’s back up a bit.
Download the QuickStart manual from the company’s website before you do anything else — it will get you started correctly and pretty much explains what the heck the Sportiiiis is all about. Then you can go and install the software and peruse the full manual to get the needed details.
The initial setup requires a few minutes, after you’ve charged the Sportiiiis for about an hour and a half. Once the visible LEDS are glowing green, you’ll run the software which has been downloaded for a Mac or PC (the Sportiiiis is already connected to the computer via a mini-USB cable you’ve provided). You’ll fill in a profile and then click on “Zones” so that the Sportiiiis can respond in predetermined ways to the ANT+ device(s) you’ll be using. Values for what you’ll be doing are then assigned using a slider to designate the “Target zones” for your workout, as well as the under/over values. After this is all done, the Sportiiiis is disconnected and then attached to the glasses you;ll be using. 4iiii says that other training software is compatible with the Sportiiiis, but I didn’t have anything to test so I’ll have to take their word on that.
So as an example, you’ve programmed the Sportiiiis to let you know while running that your heart rate has reached its “target” — what you see is an LED now blinking green. Falling below the designated heart rate causes the green LED to blank out as a yellow one to its left begins blinking instead. If you instead go over the heart rate you’re seeking to reach, the blinking yellow LED now on is to the right of where the green one was. An orange LED is there to indicate that the heart rate is climbing too high as well.
To switch between profiles, you’re tapping the side of the unit as noted earlier — but a double-tap can switch you between paired sensors on your body. Since all this is done by touch, you’re not compromising your sight or distracted in what your doing at the same time. Yeah you need to know what the LEDs mean, but there is such a thing as doing a bit of studying before you head out.
The battery is purported to last up to 9 hours — in my testing I continually passed 7 so while your mileage may vary, you can expect Sportiiiis not to give up the ghost before you do at a given time.
4iiii makes a series of powered ANT+ compatible devices available for use — these obviously pair well with the Sportiiiis. They include a FootPod to attach to your shoe for running, walking or hiking (10 foot transmission range between it and the Sportiiiis), a Bike Sensor and a Heart Rate Monitor that straps on your body. All of these are waterproof and retail at $59 each.
Bottom line: Sportiiiis $199 retail price reflects the technology that goes into it. But even more important is the sensibility of its construction that makes it useful without being distracting to the person as he/she goes about exercising or tasking their body to greater heights of conditioning. You don’t need to be an athlete, but between the Sportiiis and some determination, you might just start looking like one.
- Control functions easily accessed
- Extremely lightweight
- Universal mounting system
- Requires an ANT+ device
- Mini-USB cover tab can break off
- Software/manual online only
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.