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  • Robin Mitchell

BMW's ConnectedRide Smartglasses: The Future of Motorcycle Navigation

Recognising the challenges faced by motorcycle users, BWM recently announced the launch of their ConnectedRide Smartglasses, providing users with a heads-up display for both speed and directions. What challenges do motorcycle riders face, what will the smartglasses do, and could such technologies be expanded into other industries?

What challenges do motorcycle riders face?

Whether you love or hate them, motorcycles are one of the main types of traffic commonly found on everyday roads. Their small size, high acceleration, and high fuel efficiency make them a highly attractive option for those that make frequent trips, especially for those who do not have any passengers. Of course, the exposed nature of motorcycle driving can be uncomfortable for those riding in the rain, and the lack of protection can make high-speed collisions a death sentence. For these reasons, using a motorcycle comes with a whole load of decision-making, preparation, and care.

However, when it comes to navigation, the lack of a dashboard means that using a satnav on a motorcycle can be extremely difficult. In a typical car, navigation systems not only provide audible commands but will position the screen in a location that is easy to view while maintaining proper vision of the road. By contrast, a motorcycle user has to mount their navigation device low down, meaning that upon looking at the device, all attention on the road is lost.

For slow speeds, this may not be an issue, but at high speeds across vast distances, this increases the risk of accidents. Even if a road is empty, potholes that can cause a motorcyclist to lose control can be difficult to spot and appear very quickly.

Another challenge faced with using satnavs with motorcycles is the effect of strong vibrations on equipment caused by the engine. Unlike cars, which are designed to be smooth, the vibrations from a motorcycle engine are sufficient to damage electronics over time. This means that it is possible for satnav systems to fail during a ride, thus making them unreliable.

BWM announces latest smartglasses – A new option for riders?

Recognising the challenges faced by motorcyclists, BWM has recently announced their latest range of smartglasses, called ConnectedRide, which provides riders with a heads-up display (HUD) in a pair of glasses. When configured, riders are able to see directions and current speed as a projection, eliminating the need for riders to glance down when operating a satnav. Furthermore, the glasses support prescription lenses, meaning that riders can eliminate the need for a second pair of glasses or contact lenses to use the device.

The technology behind the BWM ConnectedRide comes from a partnership with Everysight, an Israeli company that has been working on smartglasses for two decades. Assuming that the technology is identical, the new smart glasses are powered by miniature li-ion batteries installed in the arms of the glasses, providing power for up to 10 hours. Instead of relying on an extended screen or mount, a micro-OLED display directly projects onto the lens, making the design discrete, and the high brightness of more than 1000 nits enables operation even in sunny conditions.

BMW ConnectedRide smartglasses featuring a head-up display

The technology behind the BMW ConnectedRide smartglasses is truly innovative. According to Everysight, the company that partnered with BMW to develop the glasses, the smartglasses use a proprietary compact Free-Space Off-Axis optical system powered by an ultrabright color Micro-OLED imager. This provides a high contrast wide-FOV display in all light conditions. The glasses are designed to be compact and lightweight, adding less than 3 grams per channel to typical eyewear weight. They also boast high optical efficiency and brightness, making them suitable for use even in sunny daylight conditions.

Communication between the smart glasses and a smartphone is done via Bluetooth, and a dedicated app provides updates to the glasses, including details on the current gear being used by the motorcycle. It is estimated that the price of the new smartglasses will be around $750, and while the glasses have already been announced, they will not ship until later in the year.

Interestingly, the glasses only display information on the right eye, with the idea of minimising distractions for the driver. While this may be suitable for the vast majority of people, those who are left-handed may find this to be distracting as their dominant eye is more likely to be their left. Furthermore, the lack of two displays makes it hard to deploy depth of field, and only showing an image to one eye can make it hard to follow directions.

Tim Pollard, CAR's group digital editorial director, had the opportunity to test the BMW ConnectedRide smartglasses. He noted that the glasses fit well and felt a little heavier than regular shades due to the small lithium-ion battery packs in the arms, which provide 10 hours of usage. He also mentioned that the head-up display works well, with a crisp definition and fast response time. The glasses project the latest speed, navigation, and gear selection to the lens at an infinite focal length, making it easy for the rider’s eye to track.

Could such technologies be expanded into other industries?

The technology developed by Everysight and BWM falls under augmented reality, as it overlays information over the real world, but this has been done for decades, mostly in military systems such as fighter jets and tanks. However, unlike smartglasses, older AR systems have been power-hungry, heavy, large, and restricted, meaning that they have seldom been used outside of high-end niche applications.

Now, thanks to the development of multiple companies, including BWM, Everysight, and Xioami, AR systems are becoming far more practical. One area of potential application where they could be highly beneficial is engineering maintenance. An exploded view of equipment can help engineers identify problems with machinery, while X-ray vision could be useful for identifying cable and pipe locations in walls and ceilings.

Another example of where such technology could be extremely beneficial is surgery. A surgeon operating on a patient could utilise AR to visualise masses found in scans, display patient vitals, or even with remote recommendations from another surgeon.

Overall, what BWM has demonstrated is certainly exciting for the motorcycle industry and potentially the automotive industry in general. As technology improves, such AR glasses will undoubtedly become popular, especially if they can be designed to look like a normal pair of glasses.


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