Google Glass is where our fascination with smart eyewear began, although it’s been a bumpy ride.
The personal head-up display sounded like the future of wearable tech. But perhaps it launched before its time. We certainly weren’t ready for it. The first version of Glass proved to be too expensive for most people and suffered from a poor battery life. The pioneering smart glasses also sparked privacy concerns and in some cases outright hostility towards those brave enough to don a pair in public.
Google Glass did some interesting things…
But, as we’ve already discussed, Google Glass did some interesting things and opened up a whole new category of wearable devices. It revealed that smart eyewear, if pitched at the right market, has the potential to revolutionise it. It’s one of the reasons why Intel acquired Recon Instruments, creators of the Recon Jet glasses for runners and cyclists, and the Recon Snow2 goggles for alpine sports.
Unlike Google Glass, which can be effectively replaced by smartwatch notifications, the Recon glasses are designed specifically to replace (and improve upon) wrist-worn fitness gear. Watch the video below…
The Recon Jet’s immediate advantage is that it’s half the price that Google Glass was (around £540). It combines a set of clear or polarised glasses with a small 16:9 WQVGA screen on which key information can displayed — time, pace, distance travelled and so on. The position of this LCD in front of your right eye gives you the sensation of looking at a 30-inch monitor from about 7 feet (2 metres) away.
“What first drew me to Jet was the safety aspect,” says pro triathlete Andrew Starykowicz, who works closely with Recon Instruments. He sums up the appeal of a head-mounted display perfectly.
“Even one second spent looking at a bike computer or smartwatch means riding blind for 35-45 feet (10-15 meters) on roads with narrow shoulders, pavement seams, and debris. Veer a few inches one way or the other, and that stellar workout goes out the window as the bike dances across gravel or, even worse, drifts into traffic.”
Starykowicz adds: “Jet gives me critical information without forcing me to take my eyes off the road, so there’s no tradeoff between being informed and staying safe.”
The battery in the Recon Jet lasts about four hours
This critical information is gathered by an array of onboard sensors (an accelerometer, gyroscope, altimeter, barometer, and magnetometer), while the Recon Jet also incorporates a built-in camera, microphone, speaker, plus GPS, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. When fully charged, it’s lithium-ion battery lasts about four hours.
That’s not all the Recon Jet can do. Heart rate and cadence metrics can also be displayed when the system is connected to ANT+ or Bluetooth-compatible sensors. Pair a smartphone and the smart glasses can pop up text messages and caller ID notifications. Based on the Android OS, the Recon software can even support third-party apps, expanding its talents in the future.
The acquisition of Recon Instruments “gives Intel a talented, experienced wearable computing team that will help us expand the market for head mounted display products and technologies,” says Josh Walden, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s New Technology Group.
Intel is becoming more interested in wearable tech
It follows the announcement of the button-sized Intel Curie module, designed for wearable technologies and IoT devices. While Intel has also revealed ongoing collaborations with Oakley, TAG Heuer and Google for future smart glasses and Android Wear smartwatch devices.
For Dan Eisenhardt, Recon’s co-founder and CEO, working with Intel allows him to think bigger.
“Going forward, we’ll continue leading the smart eyewear category for sports,” he says, “and we’ll be able to bring our technology and innovation to completely new markets and use cases where activity-specific information, delivered instantly, can change the game.” — Dean Evans (@evansdp)