Gadgets

What Google can learn from the Airwave, Oakley’s hyper-focused take on Google Glass

While Google Glass has captured the minds and imaginations of many in the tech world, most of us still aren’t sure what we’d use it for.

One device that doesn’t have that problem is the Airwave, the $650 snow sports-focused heads-up display goggles developed by eyewear maker Oakley.

Unlike Glass, which Google says can be used for things as mundane as walking around the city to those as extreme as jumping out of airplanes, the Airwave has two very specific use cases: snowboarding and skiing. This, as Oakley product manager Chris Petrillo told VentureBeat, is key to the company’s efforts to sell a new device class to customers.

“HUD technology is great, but it can fail rapidly if you try to make it everything for everybody,” Petrillo said.

But understanding uses cases is important for more than just branding. It also helps Oakley determine which features its customers actually want.

With the new Airwave 1.5, this means straightforward features like speed and altitude readings but also more advanced ones like GPS-enhanced route maps and the ability to keep tabs on fellow athletes.

Other features include performance tracking and a battery that’s optimized to work well in cold conditions, where battery life tends to suffer.

With all of this, Oakley hopes to take a bigger slice of the sizable market for snowboarding and skiing equipment, which together accounted for nearly a billion dollars in sales last year alone.

But Petrillo also stressed that, while the Airwave gives wearers a pretty impressive array of features, it was important that the goggles were designed so as not get in the wearer’s way. Airwave is meant to sit on the periphery of the wearer’s vision, out of the field of view.

Or, to use Petrillo’s apt comparison to cars: “If the goggles are your windshield, the Airwave’s HUD is your dashboard,” he said.

The application is a smart one, and Petrillo says that Oakley plans to use what it’s learned with the Airwave and apply it to sports like running, cycling, and golf.

“We’re a sport optics company, so we’re always looking at other use cases and how sports optics play into those,” Petrillo said.

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