Get ready to feel like a fighter pilot the next time you fly down a ski slope! The Z3 Recon Live GPS, HUD (Heads Up Display) goggles by Zeal Optics and Recon Instruments will give you that Top Gun feeling during your next extreme sports adventure.
These goggles are mainly marketed toward downhill skiing & snowboarding. I found them to also be quite useful for other non-winter activities, namely motorcycle riding. On a camping trip I tested the Z3 goggles on a short 30-mile back road motorcycle ride and they worked beautifully. I was able to keep track of my speed, heading, altitude, elapsed time, and the distance I had traveled. Having access to all this info by just glancing down at the HUD inside the goggles was quite effective at keeping me informed. I went on to test them again during a short 12-mile bike ride, in the middle of Idaho’s winter, with icy snow-covered roads. They again worked wonderfully. As far as battery life goes, when starting out fully charged, the goggles are able to continue to function for a full day of whatever fun you plan on using them for.
The goggles alone are simple enough: an impact-resistant frame, 100% UV protection, polarized, photochromic, and anti-fogging lenses. The real impressive part of these goggles, of course, is the embedded Android powered HUD, GPS, digital compass, 3-Axis Accelerometer, and Gyro. Combining these features allow you to track your route, see your speed, heading, altitude, airtime, jump distance, vertical decent, and even the ambient air temperature.
However, I did notice that the temperature was slightly affected by my body temperature. Unfortunately, this is hard to avoid when it isn’t possible to get a sensor far enough away from interference.
The data from all your adventures are stored in the Z3’s onboard memory where it can then be synced via USB to your Recon Engage online account. From there, you can view all your trip stats on a map. A feature I would have liked to have seen on the user website would be the ability to selectively share individual trip logs with friends on Facebook and via email. Before Recon Engage, which is entirely online based, there was the Recon HQ app for your Mac/PC. I found the locally based desktop app to be much more feature rich, with a much more user-friendly interface. I also really liked the idea of having more direct control over my data and the ability to store and view it locally on my computer. With any luck, the online progeny of Recon HQ will evolve to inherit some of its predecessors more endearing qualities.
The Z3 has a couple of other high tech features up its sleeve that I think will tickle your fancy even further. The goggles are able to pair to your iPhone or Android smartphone via Bluetooth and display information from your phone on the HUD. This includes displaying incoming phone calls and text messages. You can even remotely control your music. I found these features to be very cool. However, it was quite a difficult and confusing process to get my iPhone, Z3 goggles, and the remote button pad to all properly pair up via Bluetooth. There is definitely some room for improvement in the setup process there.
Two other features the Z3 has, but I was unable to test, are the ability to pair up to a Bluetooth heart rate sensor made by “Polar”. It also has the ability to link up with other friends via the iPhone/Android app and allows you and your friends to track each other on the ski slopes. Unfortunately, I have neither the heart rate sensor, and I don’t know anyone else who owns one of these things. So, I can’t vouch for either of these two features functionality or effectiveness.
Fortunately, there is another feature these goggles possess that I was able to test. Next to having a built-in GPS Heads Up Display inside a set of goggles, this is probably the second coolest thing you can do with the Z3. It has the ability to connect wirelessly via Bluetooth to any Contour action camera that is Bluetooth capable. Let me tell you this feature is awesome! You can mount your Contour action camera anywhere up to 30 feet away from the goggles and see exactly what the camera sees in the HUD. The preview video that is streamed to the goggles HUD is heavily compressed so its not HD quality, and there is a small lag. This isn’t that big of a deal since its purpose is strictly for helping you to set up the angle for your next extreme sports adventure that you want to shoot video of. Regrettably, you can only see the video feed if you are not recording. As soon as you start recording, the video stream stops. Furthermore, the user is unable to play back any recorded videos through the goggles HUD. This is by no means the fault of the goggles. These problems stem from the limitations of the Contour camera (Contour Camera not included).
I went on to discover another great use for this technology. While on that 12- mile bike ride through snow and ice, I realized that I could aim the Contour camera backwards and use it like a mirror. It actually worked surprisingly well and allowed me to see when cars were coming up on my six, but it’s definitely overkill when a mirror can do the same job. It sure is fun though.
The things I would like to see added to the Z3 goggles would be more storage capacity, built-in speaker/microphone for phone calls, the ability to install terrain/road maps from anywhere on the planet, as well as the ability to mark/save waypoints and navigate to them. More integration with the iPhone and apps would be a big plus. I would also like these goggles to be waterproof as well as a model that has a smaller profile which would be more suitable for warm weather backpackers, kayakers, and rock climbers.
All things considered, if you love any kind of snow sports, motorcycle riding, mountain climbing, skydiving, or you just can’t live without the latest high tech gear then these goggles are right up your alley. If you fit into any one of those categories, and you can afford the price tag, get it. The Z3 Recon Live GPS, Heads Up Display, Bluetooth, goggles by Zeal Optics & Recon Instruments is definitely an awesome piece of quality high-tech extreme outdoor sports equipment that any adventurer will drool over.