Are you addicted to your screen?
If your answer is no, then you're either in denial or you're part of a shrinking group.
Even here in the mountains, where people go on vacation to get away from their computers, these days it seems you can't ride a gondola car without half of the passengers checking something on their screens during the ride. Case in point: When Vail replaces the Vista Bahn chair later this year with a new, state-of-the-art gondola, one of the marquee enhancements (and the feature most often discussed on the chairlift) will be the cars' Wi-Fi access for the resort's hopelessly screen-addicted guests.
To those smartphone users, what if I told you that you could have your screen in front of you at all times, without having to get your device out of your pocket or take off your glove?
When I tell people I've been demoing a new pair of goggles that come with a dashboard screen in the corner of the lens, I hear mostly the same reaction from people: "sounds distracting."
But, like the dashboard of your car, the Recon Instruments MOD Live GPS Micro Optics display for the Zeal Z3 goggles is only as distracting as you make it.
When I first wore the goggles on the hill, I had a hard time taking my eyes away from the speedometer. Then I realized the dashboard had a setting where you could have a large, green number consume the screen when you hit a new top speed. After a full day of use, I found myself only glancing quickly at the green number when it appeared. If I was going fast but no green flash appeared, well, then, I guess I wasn't really going that fast.
I also found myself taking a second look at the people with which I was riding the chairlift, glancing over their shoulders to look at their screens. Half of the time, people were taking off their gloves, unzipping their pockets, pulling out their smartphones and activating their screens to merely check the time and nothing else.
With my Z3s, I was checking the time simply by glancing down at my dashboard.
Another popular screen check from lift riders was their personal ski stats of the day from EpicMix.com. Here in Eagle County, we happen to be skiing Vail and Beaver Creek, where you can track your vertical feet skied and see which chairs your friends are riding through the resorts' radio-frequency scanners on their chairlifts. But on a weekend or sunny day when the hill is crowded, EpicMix starts getting bogged down with traffic and, often by lunchtime, your stats are no longer available in real time. Recently, I checked in at Vail at 3 p.m. for a quick couple of runs before the hill closed, and EpicMix.com didn't have my stats of the day available for viewing until nearly 10 p.m.
But my Z3s had all the info I was looking for and more.
In addition to the vert tracker, speedometer and time display, the MOD Live shows jump analytics (hang time, how high you jump, how much you drop and distance you travel during flight), an altimeter, your exact latitude/longitude location, distance traveled and the temperature outside.
And that's just scratching the surface. If you want to get really techy with it, sync the MOD up with your smartphone, iPod or Contour camera (or similar wireless-enabled point-of-view camera) for some amazing features. By syncing it up with your phone, you can view your text messages right from your goggle display. By syncing it up with your iPod or MP3 player, you can control your music from the MOD's wristwatch-like control pad. But probably the coolest feature is the rearview mirror the screen can provide by hooking it up to your camera.
And if your friends have a MOD display in their goggles, tracking them is as easy as pushing a button.
In February, CNBC.com ran the headline "Personal tracking to be the next billion-dollar GPS market." The article discussed personal stat tracking, not unlike EpicMix, only for use off the hill, compiling stats such as how many times you attended a particular restaurant or movie theater in a year.
One stat I'd like to see graphed is the amount of gloves dropped off chairlifts alongside the number of skiers and snowboarders who use smartphones while on the hill. While this is one personal stat you're not going to see tabulated somewhere, something tells me those two graphs are rising at a similar rate.
With Zeal/Recon technology, you can avoid becoming one of those yet-to-be-tabulated stats.