After years of broken promises and crushed hopes and dreams, we finally have our first production head-up display unit (HUD). That's right motorcycle fans, your Iron Man dreams can now be a reality. Sort of.

NUVIZ formed in 2013 with the expectation of bringing a product to market the following year. They've only now, however, finally released the finished production version of its NUVIZ HUD (which I think means it's called the NUVIZ NUVIZ for those of you following along).

We got a product overview and a test unit a few weeks back and have been doing some testing with the headset to see if the NUVIZ can deliver on all these expectations and hopes we’ve built around HUDs, and if it can deliver on its promise to add to the motorcycle experience in a positive and safe manner.

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The NUVIZ unit and remoteCourtesy of NUVIZ

THE SPECS THAT MATTER

The NUVIZ is composed of the head unit and a remote control. The head unit houses the screen, camera, brain, and battery, while the remote control sticks to your handlebar to control the functions. A smartphone is also required, as you’ll need the app to put in routes for the GPS and map functions (unless you just buy the NUVIZ simply to monitor your speed, which would be silly).

The NUVIZ is powered by a 1.6 GHz quad-core processor and has an ambient light sensor, gyroscope, barometer, magnetometer, and accelerometer built in. It has 1GB of onboard RAM memory, as well as 16GB of onboard storage (10GB of which is dedicated to user data like photos, videos, and rides). It can take an up to 128GB of flash storage.

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NUVIZ renderingCourtesy of NUVIZ

The screen is an active matrix LCOS (liquid crystal on silicon) microdisplay with a resolution of 800x480 dots, with a brightness that adapts to the available ambient light. It has a pixel density of 3,175 dpi and can display 16 million colors (this isn’t an old Nintendo Gameboy screen).

The NUVIZ creates its own 802.11 b/g/n 2.4GHz WIFI signal and features Bluetooth 4.0 with support for HFP, A2DP, and AVRCP connectivity. There’s also a USB 2.0 slot.

The camera is fixed below the display screen and it shoots 8-megapixel photos with auto white balance and has auto-exposure support. It also shoots video (MP4/H.264/AVC) in several formats, ranging from 1080p at 30 frames per second to 720p at 60fps to 480p at 30fps (if you want to take up less storage).

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This remote controls all of the NUVIZ's functions.Jeff Allen

The NUVIZ comes with a headphone jack in case you want to use your own in-ear phones. Its built-in speakers have a max output of 96 decibels.

The battery is replaceable and rechargeable and has a storage capacity of 3250 mAh, which will buy you four to six hours of heavy use (music and GPS and calls) to eight hours of light use (just music). The remote also has a battery, but it’s a CR2032 lithium 3V which should last quite a bit longer.

The head unit itself is quite large, at 5.8 inches long and 2.3 inches high (in the body) and 3.9 inches high (at the display housing). The main body is just over one inch thick, while it grows to almost an inch and a half thick at the display housing. The total weight, with the battery, is just over half a pound.

The NUVIZ is available now, retailing for $699.

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Adding more controls to the cockpit.Jeff Allen

WE RODE WITH THE THING

NUVIZ hosted a group of journalists in San Diego, where it planned a route up through the Palomar mountains and into Julian and then wine country to give us a chance to test the NUVIZ in its presence (some of us moto journalists aren’t all that young and have a hard time with the kids’ gadgets these days). After the event, we were allowed to keep the HUDs for further testing.

For my initial testing, I fixed the NUVIZ (it only comes with a sticky mount as they want it to break away in case of impact) to my Arai Defiant helmet. Many people at the launch had a variety of helmets, and no one seemed to have much of a problem with mounting. NUVIZ includes pretty detailed directions with some tips to get the display in the right place, and there’s enough adjustability in it to make it work if you don’t get it dead-on perfect.

As one of those young whippersnappers for whom this stuff feels second nature, pairing was easy. Put on the helmet and turn the unit on and it walks you with clear commands on the steps to pair the remote and smartphone app. I had to download some maps for mine to have the GPS and mapping functions, which required a WiFi connection.

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Remember the facehuggers from Aliens?Jeff Allen

Toggling through the different functions of the app is incredibly easy. There are clues on the screen as to what each button on the remote corresponds to. One screen shows your speed and the posted speed limit, the next shows your position on the map, the next shows whatever song is playing, and the next shows a phone log.

The speedometer page is pretty sparse, as one would assume, and there aren’t many functions to play with. The map page shows you the distance to your destination, estimated time of arrival, and which direction your next turn will be. As with any GPS app, there are also audio prompts for the upcoming turns. The music screen displays the song and artist, and lets you do things like play/pause, skip the song, and change the volume. The phone screen will let you access your recent call log, and then scroll to find a name and call it.

The first thing you’ll notice is that the screen you’re looking at isn’t a screen at all, it’s a reflection. The NUVIZ bounces the image off of the display you’re looking into which, while working well, does make the whole thing feel a little less Iron Man than you were probably hoping. It also means that the screen is much more affected by the angle of the display and its distance from your eye than you’d expect. NUVIZ’s press material and renderings are cool and do a good job of sort of what the different display options look like, but they aren’t the best representation of what you’ll see looking out of your helmet.

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What it actually looks like to use the NUVIZ.Jeff Allen

Accessing the information while riding is less distracting than you might think. The screen looks large and like it protrudes far into the rider’s vision, but from inside the helmet it’s actually low and out of the way.

Your eyes are always up when you’re riding, and you’re unaware of just how much space is actually provided by your eyeport. Looking through the NUVIZ (which is clear) won’t get you a view of the road, but more a view of the back of your wrists. Additionally, the team at NUVIZ has designed the display so your eye thinks it’s reading something off in the distance, so as to keep your eye from struggling to change between focusing on the road and the display.

While toggling through the information is fairly intuitive and easy, referencing it isn’t easy. Things like the speedometer and song/artist information are displayed in a font that’s easily readable but much of the other data is too small to read, especially when you factor in any sort of vibration. Trying to read the number of miles to my destination or estimated time of arrival took way more time to locate and decipher than I was comfortable taking my eyes off the road for.

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NUVIZ renderingCourtesy of NUVIZ

With the bike’s speedometer nearly parallel with the display, I find that I most often leave the display on the music function unless I was bored and testing the difference between the bike’s speed sensor and the GPS speed sensor. The music functions are easily operable, though I was unable to browse my music selection and had to pick a playlist or album from my phone (and then pause/skip from the NUVIZ controls).

The camera is an extremely nice addition to the unit, shooting both photo and video quickly and easily. There’s a dedicated camera button on the remote so you can take a photo whenever desired, and pressing it will also change the screen to show a color display from the camera’s lens. Pictures are impressively crisp and clear in the daytime but degrade quickly with low light. The video footage is nice as well, but the videos I took were mostly of the RSV4’s speedometer, given the sportbike’s riding position (and those might get me in trouble).

Finally, there is the app, which can be a bit quirky. Planning routes is difficult if you want to stray from the most normal (they don’t offer several options like Google or Apple), and adding in points of interest to get it to take the roads you want is difficult. Being able to track and share your route is cool, assuming you don’t need to plan out the route using the app. The best thing about the app is how well it walks you through pairing and its display of everything connected to the system, as well as having all of the information on how to use various functions stored as well.

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NUVIZ renderingCourtesy of NUVIZ

WHAT WE'D CHANGE

The biggest benefit of the NUVIZ HUD is that you can use it on any bike with no need to attach anything to your bike or bikes. With that said, I have a hard time wishing that they didn’t focus more on building the best software for connecting maps and your phone to a display and then licensing that to brands.

While the headset actually wore lighter and buffeted less than I expected, adding a half pound to the right side of your chin does take its effect over time. A system where more of the brain was stored in the bike itself (and where the bike could display more information as well) could allow for the piece attached to the helmet to be much smaller.

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The NUVIZ is not what you'd call unassuming.Jeff Allen

I can appreciate NUVIZ’s reasoning behind reflecting the image off of the display instead of trying to put an actual screen next to your eyeball. I mean, at the most basic, it’s much easier and easier to replace should something get damaged. But it also degrades the perceived quality of the system and of the viewing experience, which is the whole point behind the thing. I actually think the display could stand to be 25- to 50-percent bigger to be easier to reference and to make some of the harder to read details more usable.

“Is it perfect? Absolutely not. But it is a great first step and, more importantly to anyone thinking about buying one, it’s really nice to wear.”

Like any Bluetooth headset, the speakers aren’t great. Without any scientific or back-to-back testing to back it up, I’d say the NUVIZ was quieter

And, as I’m sure will happen over time and as technology advances, the NUVIZ body will need to get much smaller if it’s to appeal to a wider audience.

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NUVIZ renderingCourtesy of NUVIZ

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

Bringing a new piece of technology like this to market is an incredibly difficult task. It needs to be both usable and safe, both of which take an inordinate amount of time and money, but then also not cost too much and be nice to look at. Honestly, the task is nearly impossible.

Despite that, the NUVIZ team has created a product that checks off a lot of those boxes. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. But it is a great first step and, more importantly to anyone thinking about buying one, it’s really nice to wear.

I was impressed with how much the negative aspects didn’t detract from my overall experience with the unit and with how much I actually dug riding with it. So much so that I actually came back with really positive things to say...until someone asked me what was wrong with it. Then the list got a bit long.

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The NUVIZ unit and remoteCourtesy of NUVIZ

Those of you who are really into this sort of thing will enjoy the NUVIZ HUD and get into the quirks of how to best use it. The camera function is amazing, and I loved being able to see the name of the song I couldn’t quite remember the name of when I was listening to playlists.

For the rest of us, be excited that there are really smart guys working hard to make the best product possible, even if that product isn’t fully realized yet. After a few days with the NUVIZ team, I left the event more excited about the progress they’ve made.

For my money, it’s a pass on the first generation of the NUVIZ HUD, but you can be sure I’ll be watching what they do closely.