While much of the tech world is focusing on Glass, Google isn't the only – or even the first – player in the smart eyewear space. Vancouver, Canada-based Recon Instruments has been working on electronic eyewear for several years now.
Recon's technology first caught our eye (pun intended) when its technology was adopted by the snow sports industry. Goggle makers such as Oakley, Uvex, Scott, Smith, and many others have integrated HUD (heads-up display) that can give the snowboarder or skier information about speed, vertical descent, navigation, buddy tracking, jump airtime and distance, thanks to GPS and other sensors.
Being based in the outdoorsy city of Vancouver, Recon likely wanted to find a way to adapt its technology so that it could use it during the other half of the year – which brings us to the Recon Jet, announced today as being available for pre-order.
Recon Jet is essentially an upgraded model of the alpine goggle technology that's been fixed to a pair of polarized sports sunglasses. The Jet's onboard GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, thermometer, altimeter and barometer together can put together a ton of information, but it can also pair with other wireless sensors to report heart rate, power meters and cadence for cyclists. It also supports smartphone pairing with iPhone and Android for SMS, call display and web connectivity.
Powering the whole thing is a dual-core ARM Cortex A9 running at 1GHz with 1GB of DDR2 SDRAM and 8GB of flash memory. It supports 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 and up to eight ANT+ peripherals. It can also record video via a built-in HD camera and microphone.
The effective part that the user will see is a 16:9 WQVGA screen which appears as a 30-inch display 7 feet away. It's not high resolution enough to watch videos or look at pictures for any extended period of time, but it'll do just fine for giving you HUD info.
It being a sports-oriented piece of hardware has kept the Recon Jet a fairly light 60 grams. It's heavier than Google Glass, which is around 40 grams, but the Jet comes with a full set of lenses. Also considering the application, the touch-based navigation also works while the user is wearing gloves.
The Recon Jet is now available for pre-order at $499 from now until the end of the Tour de France (July 21). After that, it'll be at $599, which is still way below the $1,500 that Google wants for Glass. Unfortunately, even those putting down $499 will have to wait until December 2013 before they ship out, right during the cold weather except for those lucky to live someplace warm.
Of course, a piece of hardware these days is only as good as the software support. Google has an undeniable advantage in this regard thanks to its size and ability to coral developers. That said, Recon has opened up its Jet for developers to tinker with and released an SDK and an open web API.
We saw the Recon Jet for ourselves at Google IO, where we saw its utility for the cyclist and even as a very cool accessory for the Parrot AR.Drone. Even with all the Glass floating around, the Jet impressed us. We just hope that it'll still be just as impressive by the time it warms up again next spring.
Check out the videos for a better look at the Recon Jet in real world conditions.