Review date: June 2017 | Tested by: Rich Taylor | Price: £615 | https://uk.ridenuviz.com
The idea behind Nuviz is simple: at 70mph, you’ll travel two thirds the length of a football pitch – 200 feet – if you take two seconds to look at your speedo or sat-nav.
The device first appeared on Kickstarter a few years ago, when Marcel Rogalla, Jay Kim and Late Laas decided to combine their industry skills in Heads-Up-Displa (HUD) technology, with their passion for motorcycles.
The Kickstarter project disappeared though and, personally, I didn’t hear anything more about it until, on a KTM 1290 SuperDuke GT event in Austria a few weeks ago, three guys stood up in front of us and announced that they were from a company called Nuviz. KTM’s parent company recently invested in Nuviz, and thanks in part to that injection of cash, Nuviz is now a reality; you can have a proper, medical grade heads-up-display unit mounted to your helmet…
What is it?
It’s not the first HUD – BikeHUD appeared in 2010 – but Nuviz is very highly specified, being a GPS unit, a stills and video camera, and an auxiliary headset for phone calls and listening to music via your smartphone (or any device plugged into its 3.5mm stereo socket). And all of those functions are displayed on the screen that sits directly in your right eye’s line of sight.
In the box you’ll find: the Nuviz unit itself, a controller device with various mounting kits, a sticky helmet mount and cover, a headphone and microphone set, a battery and battery removal tool, a USB cable for charging, a carry pouch, and owner’s manual.
Does it work?
Initial impressions don’t disappoint. It feels well-built and there’s plenty of attention to detail. The carry pouch has dedicated compartments inside it and while you don’t need the included tool to open the battery compartment, it’s a nice thing for Nuviz to have included. Even the battery is branded, and absolutely everything you need is included, including spare sticky pads, mounting brackets, and so on.
Installation is simple but there are a lot of steps to get through. First, the Nuviz needs mounting to your helmet. If you’re familiar with GoPro fitting systems then this is a near identical process – stick the base-plate on your helmet in a position that allows the HUD to sit in front of your right eye (it cannot be mounted for your left eye), then the Nuviz unit slides down over it and clicks into place. Next the controller needs mounting to your bike on the left handlebar. You could mount it on either, but obviously it’s easier to access on the left. The final step is to stick the earphone and microphone headset into your lid, and plug it into the base plate. A point to note here is that as the headset plugs into the base plate – if you’ve got multiple helmets you use regularly, then if you put a base plate and headset on each helmet then you only need to move the Nuviz between helmets. You don’t necessarily need to use the Nuviz headset though – it’ll pair with many other intercom units.
The Nuviz pairs over Bluetooth with your smartphone via the Nuviz iOS and Android app. Once that’s done, you can begin programming GPS routes which are automatically synced from your phone to the Nuviz device via a fairly simple mapping interface; just punch in where you want to go, with any waypoints, and hit save. Worldwide maps are provided free of charge by Nuviz, and are downloadable on a country by country basis.
After programming at least one route the Nuviz is ready to go. The app is used exclusively to program the Nuviz unit and adjust settings, whereas the handlebar controller is used to control the unit – change modes, take photos, select routes, change route preferences, and so on. If you’re on the bike you’re using the controller, and if you’re off the bike, then you’ll (probably) be using the app. The Nuviz doesn't need any connection to your phone to work, as it has its own built in accelerometer, GPS and altimeter. You could leave your phone at home if you wished, and all you'd sacrifice is the ability to make calls or listen to music. You'd also forfeit the ability to programme new routes – you'd only have what’s already been synced to the device.
The controller is very simple to use. It’s got an up and down ‘joystick’ that moves the Nuviz HUD between modes: GPS, Speedo, Music, Phone. The four surrounding buttons are used to confirm and select – it’s easy even through thick motorcycling gloves, and very intuitive.
On the move, the system is remarkably good; the HUD is smaller than you might expect but very clear. Your route is highlighted in blue over a road network, and you can zoom in and zoom out, just like on any other typical GPS unit. When navigating complex junctions, it doesn’t have the space to give lane marking instructions, so you need to keep your wits about you for which exit you need, but in all other scenarios, you’re unlikely to misunderstand what it’s telling you. I tended to use the ‘speed and GPS’ mode rather than just GPS mode, which when you have selected a GPS route will use the side of the display to tell you your next turn and the distance until you have to make it. If you’re not currently on a GPS route, the speedo mode is exactly that (just a speedo) and will also display the current speed limit. You can configure the Nuviz to warn you when you hit the current speed limit as well. Like any sat-nav, you can select route preferences (ferry, toll roads, etc) and it’ll also direct you to the nearest fuel stop at the touch of a button. To change a route though, for instance deciding to avoid motorways, would involve using your phone and editing the route preferences – you can't do that with the controller and device alone.
The phone and music modes allow you to stream tunes from your smartphone, as well as access your contacts to make and receive calls. You can do all of this while locked onto a GPS route – the top right button on the handlebar controller accepts calls while riding – but one criticism I’d make is that if you’ve got music playing, you need to navigate back to the music screen in order to pause or skip tracks. Also, the headset is not especially loud, but Nuviz says it’s working on allowing higher volumes.
The display is very bright, and had no problems dealing with direct sunlight or a dark visor. Likewise, it wasn’t too bright as to be painful or distracting at night. Not once did any awkward reflections surface, and given its translucent nature, you can look past and through it. You do, though, have to intentionally look at it in order to see it – it isn’t ‘always there’ like the movies might make you think. The display is designed to take up roughly 14 degrees of your vision, and is focused to be about four feet in front of you. This means that you do have to take your eyes off the road to read it, but given that you only need to move your eyeball, it’s a lot faster than moving your entire head to look down and away from the road to look at your traditional GPS unit or speedo.
Battery life is impressive – Nuviz claims that you’ll get around eight hours from the 3250mAh battery, but in practice I averaged about 10, although I tend not to play music or answer calls. Either way, eight is very reasonable and will easily cover a long day in the saddle, or a few days of commuting (the unit is recharged using a standard micro USB cable). Next to the charging port is a micro SD slot that can be used to expand the Nuviz’s internal memory – it has 16GB built in, but can be expanded up to a total maximum of 144GB.
When riding, pressing the controller’s bottom right button will arm the camera and give a video preview so you can get an idea of what photos will look like. The lens is angle adjustable, and photos are taken at 8megapixel, though they can be configured via the ap) to be 1mp or 5mp instead. Holding the shutter button will take a video at 1080p and 30fps, but this can be configured down to 720p or 480p, in multiple framerates. Photo quality is great, and images are automatically tagged with geolocation data. Shots are automatically synced to your phone, so you can jump off your bike, grab a coffee with your mates and look at the photos immediately.
You’ve probably noticed that the device looks fairly large. It is, and most of that is due to the battery. But despite its size, I couldn’t notice that it was mounted to my helmet, even at speeds well in excess of the limit – all in, it weighs 256g. I didn’t detect any buffeting, extra wind noise or weight on my Arai RX-7V.
The Nuviz team is part made up of ex-Nokia engineers, and they’re keen to use trends seen on the internet to enhance the device. When you’re riding, it keeps track of all your rides and aggregates statistics, much like fitness apps record cycle rides and running sessions. They’re also keen to harvest data from photos and GPS routes, which would be used to suggest popular places to stop for photos, and popular routes ridden regularly by other riders. Nuviz is also working on device-to-device communication, and this is set to appear in the next versions.
Video quality isn’t as good as a GoPro, the GPS isn’t as fully featured as a TomTom, and the music/phone headset isn’t as good as a Sena, for instance, but the Nuviz is a fairly decent action camera, sat-nav and headset in one device, along with a surprisingly effective heads-up-display. The safety aspect is real, too – it’s very easy to make a tiny eye movement to see your current speed or what your next turn is, and it’s handy to know what corners are coming up when you’re trying to make progress on switch-back mountain roads. I genuinely miss my Nuviz when it’s not on my helmet. It’s no gimmick, and possibly a real glance into the future, as many companies are now exploring this technology.