It was a sudden affair. The sweet, seductive voice of Siri knocked me off my feet when I first turned on my iPhone 4S. She gave me directions, scheduled appointments. But there was something just a bit cold. Two weeks ago a new box arrived that made me my question my feelings. A Canadian company called 4iiii sent me a Sportiiiis unit, a heads-up system designed to attach to your glasses and give active performance feedback.
It's an ingenious system that is remarkably easy to set up. A boom attaches to either stem of your glasses and displays different colored LEDs. I thought it would be hard to connect to the non-standard stem of my Oakley glasses, but it proved to be remarkably easy.
First, I set up the system. I downloaded and installed the software from 4iiis's website. Once the program launched, I attached the device via a USB cable to my Mac. On the screen, I adjusted the target heart rate to match my level 2 or approximately 60% of my max HR for my longer base training program. One press of an on-screen button downloaded my personal information into the boom.
I let the unit charge until the light turned green on the software. The LED lights on the boom also give feedback as they progressively light up as the charge builds.
I strapped on the heart rate monitor that accompanied the device and verified that the two were properly paired. Sportiiiis also allows you to pair the boom with other ANT+ compatible devices - cadence monitors, power meters, etc.
The device will sync with any device that sends ANT+ data to a receiving unit. Currently, GPS watches only receive data, not send when in the record mode. To track running pace, you will need an ANT+ foot pod to get speed while running.
I set out later that week on a long, very hilly ride through the hills of Northern Westchester County in New York. I wasn't sure how visible the LED lights would be in different glaring conditions. I turned the unit on.
If you buy the device, be ready for a little different control logic. Most of the fitness devices on the market have buttons that physically depress to give you the artificial comfort that something has actually happened. In contrast, all functions of the Sportiiiis are controlled through one, touch-sensitive spot on the boom. To turn on, for instance, you touch the button until you hear two beeps, the let go.
I turned on the glasses as I set out for the ride. Then something remarkable happened. A sultry female Australian voice said "Power on." I remembered that the software had volume and frequency settings, but had given it little thought. Suddenly I had another woman along for the ride.
In the harsh daylight of late winter, I could see the LED lights on the boom change color with no problems. The position also allowed me to see the road at the same time. There is no distraction as you receive the feedback.
The audio feedback, though, blew me away. As I started out, the boom told me, "Heart rate below target." Then a few moments later came the sexy voice that said, "Heart rate 101." This was very windy day. As we hit 35 mph down some hills, I could still hear the Sportiiiis calling out my key numbers.
If I had synced the device with a power meter, I would have been able to tap the side of the boom and have it switch instrumentation.
The audio feedback was remarkable. This is like having a coach in a SAG wagon talk to you on a radio. The numbers would confirm how steep the hill was and then tell me how quickly I had recovered on the other side.
Siri, I'm sorry. I'll still keep you around and take you the more dressy affairs. But Sportiiiiss, you are my true weekend fling. Best yet, the luggage monograms don't have to change.
For more information on the device and how to purchase, go to: http://4iiii.com.