Review: Sportiiiis + Viiiiva puts fit tech on your face
At a Glance
4iiii Innovation Sportiiiis
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A heads up fit tech display, the Sportiiiis is ideal for athletes who need a digital coach, or constant tracking of their vitals. It's also compatible with a long list of ANT+ devices.
Long before Google Glass entered the wearable tech market, there was 4iiii’s Sportiiiis: a small device that attaches to your sunglasses to let you know—via brightly-colored LEDs—how your workout is going. While it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that Google Glass offers, the Sportiiiis is a neat gadget ideal for distance runners and cyclists.
We reviewed the Sportiiiis + Viiiiva kit, but these are actually two different products that you can purchase separately ($150 for the Sportiiiis and $80 for the Viiiiva) or together ($200). The Sportiiiis is an LED-based display that attaches to a pair of sunglasses and connects wirelessly to various sensors, while the Viiiiva is one of those sensors—specifically, a chest strap heart-rate monitor. 4iiii Innovations also sells other sensors that work with the Sportiiiis, including the Riiiide bike speed/cadence sensor ($60) and the Striiiide running speed/cadence sensor.
Sportiiiis + Viiiiva can be used by anyone, but it’s not very useful for casual users. The Viiiiva heart-rate monitor tracks your heart rate and pushes that information to the Sportiiiis display, so it’s designed for more serious athletes who are interested in constant heart rate monitoring.
The Sportiiiis display is designed to attach to a pair of sunglasses, so it follows that the product is best used while running or cycling outside. Of course, you can attach the Sportiiiis to other types of glasses—such as regular glasses or even Google Glass frames—so it’s not strictly limited to outdoor workouts.
Design and features
The Sportiiiis is small and light, about the size of an AA battery (not including the slim, flexible arm). It attaches securely to just about any pair of sunglasses or regular glasses using zip ties. The Sportiiiis comes with two mounts and ten zip ties.
To attach the Sportiiiis, you just slide two zip ties through the mount, tighten them around the frame of your glasses, and then slide the Sportiiiis into the mount. For what it’s worth, this somewhat unconventional mounting method is very secure—the Sportiiiis didn’t move at all during workouts.
The Sportiiiis has a speaker on one end, a Micro-USB port and a power/mode multifunction button in the middle, and a flexible rubber arm at the other end. The speaker sits near your ear to give you audio prompts (tap the Sportiiiis to hear your current heart rate, cadence, speed, etc.) while the flexible arm curves inside (or outside) the lens.
The arm sits at the bottom of your field of vision, so you can see the lights without being distracted from your workout. The arm has seven bright, differently colored LED lights running along it that blink to let you know how you’re doing. For example, if you’re within your target heart-rate zone, the center green light will blink. But if your heart rate is too fast or too slow, different lights will blink to indicate where you are on the spectrum.
The Sportiiiis connects with a variety of different sensors through the Viiiiva heart-rate monitor. Let me explain—the Viiiiva is 4iiii’s basic, Bluetooth-enabled chest strap monitor, which connects to an iPhone app via Bluetooth 4.0 (which means it only works with iPhone 4S or later). Through the free iPhone app, you can connect various ANT+ sensors, such as Garmin running watches, to your Viiiiva monitor. The Viiiiva then pushes that information to the Sportiiiis, so you can see the sensor information displayed as LEDs while you’re running or biking.
It sounds a little complicated, but it’s not—the bottom line is: While you can purchase the Sportiiiis alone, you will need additional sensors for it to be of any use. The Viiiiva is a particularly useful sensor, because it can connect to all of your other ANT+ sensors, and push that data to the Sportiiiis (as well as to an iPhone app).
Pairing the Sportiiiis with the Viiiiva (and other 4iiii sensors) can be a little confusing, at first. The Sportiiiis’ multifunction button acts as a power button, a mode button, and a pairing button. You press and hold it until you hear various commands—when you hear the command you want to use, you release it. So if you press and hold it until you hear “Power” and then release it, the Sportiiiis will turn off. Similarly, you can change the mode (running/biking), pair it with your Viiiiva, or change the volume. Pairing ANT+ sensors with the Viiiiva is easier—just open up the iOS app and tap a button.
Web services/mobile apps
The Sportiiiis + Viiiiva aren’t standalone devices; you'll need to set up the Sportiiiis using 4iiii’s software (available for PC or Mac) or the iOS app. Luckily, the software is straightforward and easy to use—once you have downloaded and installed it. (Note that my antivirus program kept flagging the PC version of the software as dangerous).
Once installed, the 4iiii software asks you to fill out a basic profile, including height, weight, and sex, for calorie computation, and then lets you choose different “zones” for different types of sensors. Each sensor has a default zone, so you don’t have to choose zones at random if you’re just a beginner, but this is useful if you have specific goals in mind.
You can choose zones—ranging from low to ideal to high (seven lights on the Sportiiiis equals seven corresponding zones) for heart rate, pace, and cadence; and you can customize them for running or cycling. For example, if your goal is to run a ten-minute mile, you can make the ten-minute mile your target zone. You can switch this up whenever you want (just be sure to connect your Sportiiiis and update it), so your target can be a ten-minute mile one day and a six-minute mile the next.
The 4iiii software also lets you adjust your device’s settings—you can set up the LED brightness and blink rate, adjust the audio volume, change the voice from male to female, check which sensors are currently paired with the Sportiiiis, and determine the sensitivity of the tap.
The iOS app is similar in function—it lets you set up the device, adjust zones for different sensors, and see which devices are paired. It also features a Live Data screen where you can see data from all of the sensors that are paired—including heart rate, speed, cadence, power, calories, and distance. This is useful if you’re looking for actual numbers, rather than zone-related LEDs, to give you workout feedback.
The Sportiiiis + Viiiiva is an interesting concept, and it’s executed fairly well. The Sportiiiis is small, lightweight, and attaches securely to your sunglasses, while the Viiiiva is easy to put on (using the snaps and elastic band), and simple to use. The iOS app is a nice touch, since constantly connecting your Sportiiiis to a computer to update it can get annoying, and I love the fact that the Viiiiva lets you connect the Sportiiiis to over 100 ANT+ sensors, including sensors from Adidas, Motorola, Schwinn, Wahoo Fitness, Timex, Garmin, and iBike.
This is a product for a very particular user, however. The Sportiiiis alone is mostly useful for people who need to constantly monitor their performance via heart rate, speed, or cadence, without having to look at a smart pedometer or an iPhone app. The LEDs seem like overkill unless you’re running or biking very far, or are away from other sensors and trackers (such as those found on a treadmill). That being said, if you think having a digital fitness coach might help advance your workout, the Sportiiiis can help keep you focused, and will play nice with a long list of other devices to boot.