NUVIZ Motorcycle Heads-up Display Review

gopro screencap

Contents

  • What is NUVIZ?
  • What does it do?
  • Answers to common questions about NUVIZ
  • What are my impressions of NUVIZ?
  • Conclusion

What is NUVIZ?

NUVIZ is a heads-up display (HUD) device for motorcyclists.  The device attaches to the chin of a motorcycle helmet and reflects small color LCD display into the field of view of the rider’s right eye.  The purpose of this display is to show the rider useful information such as current speed or a navigation guidance without requiring the rider to stop paying attention to the road ahead.

Funded on Kickstarter at the end of 2013, it has survived to become a product shipping to backers and consumers in July of 2017.  It’s now available for order from RideNUVIZ.com for the price of US $699.  A similar product, Skully, was funded through Indiegogo and venture capitalists, but the company making this product shut down last year surrounded in controversy.

What is in the box?

  • An illustrated quick start guide with translations in German, Spanish, French, and Italian.
  • The NUVIZ device, which already has an adhesive on it, ready to stick to your helmet.
  • A rechargeable 18650 battery also commonly found in electric vehicles. I don’t have enough data to more than guess that the battery will last at least 6 hours of continuous navigation and simultaneous video recording.  Your memory card might fill up first, at which point you’ll plug in the NUVIZ to transfer the video files off, simultaneously recharging it.
  • A USB to micro-USB cable for recharging the NUVIZ and copying data to and from.
  • A remote control, so that you can keep your hands close to the handlebar at all times.
  • A non-rechargable CR2032 battery for the remote control. NUVIZ claims this battery will last for years.
  • Three different mounting options for attaching the remote control to your motorcycle, on or near your handlebars.
  • Headphones and microphone for listening to music, alerts from the NUVIZ, and adding your voice to a video recording.
  • A suede pouch for storing the NUVIZ if you disconnect the NUVIZ from your helmet (the adhesive and a mounting bracket remain behind on your helmet.
  • A plastic cover to protect the electronic contacts on the NUVIZ mounting bracket while the NUVIZ is disconnected from your helmet.
  • A tool to make it easy to open and close the battery door on the NUVIZ and on its remote control.

What does it do?

The major features this device makes available to the motorcyclist are:  speedometer, map, navigation, music, calls, pictures, and video.

Screenshot_2017-07-17-00-08-10 Screenshot_2017-07-17-00-33-30 Screenshot_2017-07-20-23-05-19 Screenshot_2017-07-20-23-05-08 Screenshot_2017-07-20-23-05-21

Answers to common questions about NUVIZ

Once the product was announced to be shipping to customers, I found questions like these posted to the NUVIZ facebook page.

Q.  Does it block the visor from opening and closing?

No.

Helmet - visor

Q.  Can it be attached to a modular helmet?

Yes.  It attaches without trouble to my Scorpion EXO 900.

Helmet - modular

Q.  Does it block a modular helmet from opening and closing?

No.

Helmet - open

Q.  Does it dangerously block your field of view?

No, unless you ride with your chin up and look down your nose at traffic.  It takes up maybe a square inch at the bottom of your field of view…around where you would see your handlebars.  The mock-up the company posts to their web site is pretty close.

Helmet - view

What are my impressions of NUVIZ?

After taking NUVIZ on my daily commute twice now, the magic has worn off.  What follows is my reaction to each of its main features.

Map

(as distinct from the navigation feature)

What is the map feature for?  Displaying where you are, showing what’s ahead, and showing navigation guidance.

Screenshot_2017-07-17-00-33-30 Screenshot_2017-07-17-00-33-59 Screenshot_2017-07-20-08-53-39

  • It’s easy to zoom in and out to the desired level of detail using buttons on the remote control
  • All roads are white. All highways are orange. The route planned by the navigation feature is shown in blue.
  • Some streets are labeled with names, at some zoom levels, but highways are usually not labeled. Yes, I saw a label once for one highway, but the labels don’t remain in view like you would expect from other mapping software.
  • You can zoom out as far as seeing the whole planet. Not that it is particularly useful to do so.
  • The roadways are just lines. The only shaded areas I saw were for water. If you zoom in enough to a dual carriageway (a two-way roadway split by a median), you will see each direction drawn with a separate line, with arrows indicating direction.
  • Your speed is indicated at the top edge of the screen in map mode. If known, the speed limit is displayed to the left of your current speed. If your speed is above the speed limit, the circle drawn around the speed limit number is drawn in red. The red is dark, so against the black background it is difficult to distinguish unless you pay close attention. But if you’re moving in traffic, you should not pay this much attention to anything other than traffic!
  • If you don’t like light on dark, you can’t change it to dark on light.

Navigation

(as distinct from the map feature)

What is the navigation feature for?  It shows you the path to reach your destination (or next waypoint) and advises you when and which direction to turn.

Screenshot_2017-07-16-23-57-51 Screenshot_2017-07-17-00-08-10 Screenshot_2017-07-20-23-34-00 Screenshot_2017-07-17-00-32-46

Screenshot_2017-07-20-08-53-39

  • You can store planned routes in the NUVIZ without a GPS signal. Storing the route is done from the NUVIZ smartphone app. Selecting any stored route in the NUVIZ UI before it has found a GPS signal does nothing. Not even an error message is displayed to tell you you have done something unsupported. This is unhelpful when you want to prepare the NUVIZ for your ride before you pull up your kickstand. Once you’re moving, you want to be free of distractions like fussing with the remote control or the smartphone app. Instead, you are either forced to pull out the smartphone app to select a route or stop once you have a GPS signal to select the route.
  • Turn by turn directions are what you might be used to from other navigation apps. You will find those as icons to the left of the map or to the left of the navigation mode as shown by the curved arrow and distance measurement in the screen capture in the Map post earlier.
  • I had a bad experience with this feature. If you store a route like you would use a map application on a phone or web site, you probably specified both your starting point (e.g. home) and your destination (e.g. work). That’s fine and the NUVIZ smartphone app lets you do this. However, when you ask the NUVIZ to guide you along this route, and you start WITHOUT a GPS signal, then by the time it finds the GPS signal, you have very likely departed your starting point. However, NUVIZ will insist that you turn around so that you will arrive at your starting point before you continue to your destination. You must explicitly ask NUVIZ to skip the first waypoint so that it will guide you to your next waypoint (your destination).
  • On the way home on my second day with the NUVIZ, I had another bad experience. The blue navigation route stopped being drawn on the map, and my position was shown with a small blue circle with white border instead of the forward-pointing white arrow on a blue background as seen in one of the screen captures above.  Furthermore, my position was no longer bottom-center of the display.  Instead, the map stopped scrolling and my dot moved across the map.  I do not know what caused this unexpected behavior and I did not want to stop along the way to fuss with the controls to try to correct this problem.

Screenshot_2017-07-20-19-02-16

Music

What is the music feature for?  It lets you listen to music while you ride.

Screenshot_2017-07-20-23-05-08 Screenshot_2017-07-16-23-53-20 Screenshot_2017-07-16-23-55-22 Screenshot_2017-07-16-23-57-45

  • Music can be played if you pair the NUVIZ to a Bluetooth device that can stream music, like your smartphone. Even though the NUVIZ appears to be running the Android operating system, copying a music file to the Music folder on the internal storage does not help.
  • Before the NUVIZ, I used a Scala Rider G4 to listen to FM radio, communicate with my wife who rides her own motorcycle, and listen to music streaming over Bluetooth from my smartphone. With the NUVIZ, I paired the NUVIZ to the Scala as my wireless headphones and wireless microphone. This lets me avoid replacing my existing Scala headphones and Scala microphone or installing both sets of headphones and microphones.
  • Because the NUVIZ has a Music feature, but not a Radio feature or an Intercom feature (at least on the main menu), I can no longer listen to the FM radio that my Scala is otherwise capable of. The Scala is still directly driving my Scala headphones and listening to my Scala microphone, but because the NUVIZ appears to be monopolizing the audio channel, activating the FM radio feature of the Scala via the Scala’s own button results in an “command unavailable” tone instead of letting me listen to an FM radio station.
  • Because the NUVIZ is monopolizing the Bluetooth A2DP audio channel, if you use the NUVIZ to record video, it will record sound from your Bluetooth microphone and play it back to you through your Bluetooth headphones. The unfortunate side effect of this is that if you also attempt to use the NUVIZ Music feature, the sound quality will be very very poor in both directions. The music you hear will sound like you are overhearing music on the other end of a telephone call. And your voice being recorded in the NUVIZ video will sound just as bad, or worse.
  • Fortunately, the typeface that the NUVIZ uses supports far east glyphs. I wish the Nissan LEAF infotainment center would display glyphs from its mother country, too. Orz.
  • I don’t know if this feature works with podcasts or audio books.

Video / Picture

What is the video feature for?  It lets you record the view in front of your helmet (and records your voice using the provided wired microphone or your wireless headset microphone.  Think of it like a dash cam for a car.

What is the picture feature for?  It lets you take still photos of the view in front of your helmet.

nuviz_20170720190415351

  • The video is nice and clear. If it has a stability feature, it isn’t bad, but not perfect. You have to expect that from a head-mounted camera. It could be much worse, though.
  • The video recording does listen to and record the helmet microphone as accompanying audio. There is surprisingly very little road, wind, or machine noise in the recording. Noise cancellation credit goes to Scala, because the NUVIZ is paired to my Scala Rider and it is the Scala microphone that is providing audio to the NUVIZ for its video recording. I don’t know how much noise the wired NUVIZ helmet microphone would let in.
  • The video didn’t burn anywhere the amount of battery life that I thought it would. When I got home after my commute, the NUVIZ had over 3/4 battery remaining after being turned on for rides totaling about 90 minutes, maybe 40 of which were spent recording video. Then again my poor old GoPro HERO3’s battery died after recording just over 75 minutes.
  • As mentioned above, video recording and playing music at the same time is a very bad idea if you value sound quality.

Calls

What is the calls feature for?  It is for placing or receiving phone calls while using the NUVIZ.

Screenshot_2017-07-16-23-57-48

  • I was able to telephone my wife from the NUVIZ and it worked. She had trouble hearing my voice, but that’s because I speak quietly and don’t always pay attention to how far away the microphone is from my mouth.
  • The NUVIZ itself is not a phone. You cannot place or receive calls if your smartphone is not paired via Bluetooth with the NUVIZ. This disclaimer also applies to the Scala Rider, so no difference there, but having to keep so many systems interconnected to enjoy the features of the NUVIZ defeats the purpose of the NUVIZ.

Intercom

What is the intercom feature for?  It is for rider-to-rider communication.  The NUVIZ doesn’t have an intercom feature, but it is Bluetooth-paired to my Scala Rider G4, which is an intercom device.

Scala Rider G4

  • Again, the NUVIZ does not have an intercom feature. I bring this up because it might be important to riders like me who already have an intercom device and want to know whether they can continue to use it together with the NUVIZ. Unfortunately, I do not have an answer to this question because I have not attempted this yet. Note the earlier comment about the NUVIZ hogging the A2DP channel and preventing Scala from letting me listen to FM radio.

Conclusion

After two days of commuting with the NUVIZ, what do I think of it?

I believe NUVIZ is not a product that adds value to my particular riding habits. It solves a problem I don’t have.

 

  • It is NOT because of the display. The display is fine. It is legible. It is unobtrusive. It distracts me only because it is a novelty.
  • It is NOT because of the video recording quality. The video it records has great clarity, great framerate, and watching the recording doesn’t give me motion sickness. The GoPro HERO3+ records with higher video quality and higher frame rate, but the NUVIZ video is respectable.

 

  • It IS because it adds complexity to my ride. It is one more device. It does not replace another device I already use. I have to turn on the NUVIZ, the Scala, and of course my smartphone is with me too. All of these have to be Bluetooth paired with each other.
  • It IS because despite the value that the NUVIZ adds, it also takes value away: I can no longer listen to FM radio from the Scala if I also want to hear audio notifications from NUVIZ or record my voice onto NUVIZ video. In other words, the sum has less value than the parts. And I don’t yet know if rider-to-rider communication is still possible with this setup.
  • It IS because 95% of my riding does not require navigational assistance. I commute. If I didn’t know where I was going, I’d be out of a job. Also, I can RAM mount my smartphone to my handlebars and read (or listen to via the Scala Rider headphones) turn-by-turn directions using mapping software.
  • It IS because the remaining value of the NUVIZ is both better and worse than what it is replacing. That is, there is no clear advantage over my existing equipment.
    • Better: My real speedometer is an LCD screen, black on an olive background.  This can be difficult to read under certain lighting conditions.  The NUVIZ has an LED screen emitting a high-contrast image that is usually readable except when sunlight strikes it at certain angles.
    • About the same: In my field of view, my real dashboard is only slightly below the NUVIZ.  That means I am glancing down away from traffic to look at either the NUVIZ or my real speedometer.
    • Worse: It takes a long time for the NUVIZ to acquire a GPS signal.  Longer than my smartphone.  Refer back to Navigation above for a description of how this can cause a bad experience.

I am not saying it is impossible to gain a lot of value and convenience from having a NUVIZ.  It just doesn’t add enough value to my riding experience to compensate for introducing compromises.  I don’t have the problem that it solves, or I consider its price does not exceed the inconvenience of the workarounds I already have in place.  Adding a RAM mount to attach my smartphone to the handlebars and buying comfortable motorcycle gloves with touch-screen compatible pads at the fingertips is cheaper than buying a NUVIZ.

So what product would offer a better combination of additional functionality without adding a heavy dongle to my helmet?  The Sena 10c would be a good example because it would not only add a 1080p video camera, but it would replace the Scala Rider and weigh less than the combo (3.2 oz Sena vs. 2 oz Scala + 9 oz NUVIZ).  Unfortunately, the Sena is out of stock.

 

I hope this helps you make an informed decision about purchasing the NUVIZ.

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