Recon Jet: Hands on with the endurance sports heads up display

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While the Recon Jet was introduced this past spring, it’s a project I’ve been following for quite a long time. I first sat down with the company over a year ago to talk about what athletes would want in a heads up display. Since then I’ve checked in with Recon from time to time to see how things have been going on the Jet.

Upon offering the product for sale in July things have been solidified on a number of technical fronts, so I got up to speed on those as well as what the plans are moving forward.

First up is the unit in whole. The Recon Jet is fully built in-house, which means it’s not actually going to attach to a different OEM’s sunglasses (like Oakley), such as how their snow products do today. The reasoning for this is relatively straight forward once you see how much custom design work must be done to make all the electronics fit into it.

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Before we get too far one should realize that the unit shown here is prototype, and has a lot of ‘rough edges’ from a plastics standpoint. It’s also not final yet, for example the black edition shown above is a slightly earlier prototype and you can see the display is a touch bit smaller than the next iteration (shown in white). So things will continue to be tweaked slightly.

The Recon Jet is essentially three components: The glasses, the battery pack, and the computing engine (display/sensors/etc…). The glasses specially are designed to be usable after removing the two pods for post-workout use. For example, you finish up your ride and want to use them for the drive home or to do snow angels in the sand at the beach. They’re still working on the edging below so it’ll be much cleaner in the next prototypes.

By default the package will come with a ‘smoke’ lens color (what you see in these photos), however, they’ll offer four types in total: Clear, Rose/Yellow/Orange (exact variant TBD), Smoke, and Mirror.

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For a quick tour through the pods, first up we’ve got the battery pod. This pod weighs 14g, and the battery has a lifetime of 3-6 hours depending on which sensors and features are used.

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The battery pods are designed to be replaceable, and while a final price hasn’t been established for extra battery pods, they expect it to be in the $30-$50 range.

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Next we have the ‘computing engine’ pod, which contains all of the real goodness. This is connected to the battery via tiny virtually invisible wiring along the top of the frame of the glasses.

The computing engine has a dual core 1ghz processor on it, and also weighs 14g. You’ll note that both ‘pods’ (battery and computing) weigh the same, to ensure balance in the universe.

In total, that puts the pods at 28g, or slightly less than 1oz. The glasses themselves weigh 32g.

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The computing engine runs Android Jelly Bean 4.1.1 as its kernel, though the Recon OS is what the glasses itself run. From an Android standpoint, developers can leverage an API to develop apps for Recon Jet in a similar manner as they’d develop apps for the remainder of the Android platform.

Inside this is where all the good stuff is, specifically the following sensors and components:

- GPS
- WiFi
- ANT+
- Bluetooth Smart
- 720P HD Photo/Video Camera
- Speakerphone/Microphone
- 3D Accelerometer, Gyroscope
- Barometric altimeter and thermometer
- Data display (it doesn’t project on lens, rather is like a mini-screen)

Below, you can see the little black square is where the touch sensor is, allowing tap and swipe movements. They said it works just fine with gloves or in the rain. To the right of the square you’ll see the small dot, that’s the camera.

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It was explained that the goal of the camera is “not intended to replace a GoPro”, but rather, aimed for quicker photos on the go. For example, if I was coming up on Yogi bear while riding – the ability to simply tap the button on the side and instantly get a photo. Or do a combined single tap with a secondary longer hold to start recording video. Think of it as situations you’d normally grab your cell phone for.

As noted above, the quality will be 720p initially, but down the line they may look at more advanced sensors as they become available/reasonable in that size.

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You’ll charge the battery pods using the Micro-USB connector on the computing engine side/pod, which in turn charges the battery pod itself on the other side.

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From a functionality standpoint of interest to most athletes are the ANT+ capabilities. The unit out of the gate will include support for ANT+ Power, ANT+ Speed, ANT+ Cadence, and ANT+ Heart Rate Sensors. Also, metrics from GPS such as distance and speed are also displayed. This means that as you ride you’ll be able to have your power information displayed inside the heads up display itself on the small screen.

The display is designed to be just inside your peripheral vision. In using the Recon HUD’s for snow sports, I found that when positioned ‘just right’ it works perfectly. However, when not positioned correctly you have to refocus. Unfortunately, this particular unit was not powered, thus I couldn’t get a good feel for how things stand today with the Jet.

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The unit is designed to connect to Android and iPhone apps, which allow you to take advantage of your cell phone. This includes out of the gate features such as buddy tracking where if two users are riding out at the same time you’ll get updates on his/her location (on a map on the display), as well as the ability to simply tap to talk to them via the cell phone connection (and in turn, via the speakerphone/microphone in the unit). Thus, the next time I can’t figure out where The Girl is on a ride where we’re out at the same time, I could just tap and it’ll connect me to her and get details on why she’s still standing by the side of the road.

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Other features aside from replicating your GPS bike or running computer (which it does) is notification of incoming texts and calls and weather. Additionally, you can configure the unit to spit out updates to social media platforms. For example when you cross 100 miles on a ride, it could automatically post that information to Facebook exactly as it happens.

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There’s significant potential for integration with other 3rd party services to develop apps as well, from Strava to Training Peaks – though none have released their exact plans yet.

Currently the unit is selling for $599, with European pricing still being finalized, though they are targeting 649€. Availability at this point is split into two groups. For the absolute earliest folks who pre-ordered in July, they will receive theirs in December. For everyone else, it’ll be just into the new year (2014).

Going forward, they’ll be doing their B3 prototype device run (build) right before Ironman Hawaii (Kona) and will be present there to demonstrate the units further.

I’ll be likely meeting up with them at the ANT+ Symposium the week prior, and hope to be able to give a more “in-use” first-look at it then in person. After all, there’s no better place to go for a ride, see some bears, and capture it on camera.

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Finally, in addition to all of the work being on the Recon Jet, they’ve also got some news on their snow sports variant – the Recon Snow2. This unit updates previous ones (which I’ve toyed with in the past) by adding in WiFi, extending the battery closer to 8 hours, as well as adding in all the social notification features I mentioned above. The OS GUI looks quite a bit different and cleaned up as well. If you have a previous unit you can buy the new unit without re-purchasing the entire goggle, though, it’ll still cost ya – $399 for the total swap of internal parts (449€).

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Thanks for reading!

Welcome to Eurobike week! This week during Eurobike I’ll be tweeting from the exhibition show floor quite a bit, as well as posting frequently. Here’s a quick and handy link to all Eurobike-related posts.

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36 Comments

  1. DSF

    Ray, it looks like the HUD can only display for the right eye. Can it be swapped to display on the left instead?

    Thanks,
    Steven

    Reply
  2. Efraim Shaw

    So So cool!!!!!!

    Reply
  3. simon

    very excited about this....although a bit disappointed at the 3-6 hour battery life.

    would like to see a slightly higher quality stills camera too - but as a first effort it looks encouraging.

    just need a killer app that duplicates the garmin edge 800 data but takes the gps info from the, hopefully more accurate, recon GPS.

    Would be interested in finding out if the extra weight over normal sunglasses makes them unstable whilst running ?

    Reply
  4. Jackson

    Interesting...would it be fair to say it looks like its clearest competitor is going to be Google glass? Glass is only 50g, has wifi and bluetooth (no ANT+) and a whole lot more functionality (but no running/cycle apps)...Glass does cost about 1K more though :-)

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Indeed, it'll be interesting to see how things shake out between the two units once we get to final product launches. At present, it's clear that this is far and away more focused on sport that Glass is - even if apps on Glass end up being more advanced than those found on Recon (simply due to the larger catchment of Glass users).

      I suspect it'll be some years before we see full convergence in the two.

      Reply
    • NewClydesdale replied

      I wonder how much of the Glass software features will be baked into Android, or be open source?

      It seems quite possible that Recon might be able to inherit some of the best features in a future version.

      Reply
    • Guillaume replied

      The beta (tester) edition of Google Glass is 1500$, the retail edition will be between 300-500$ depending on options... (Whenever Glass comes out....)

      I see two main hurdles: athlete safety (to be honest, I'm more concerned about my safety around another athlete wearing that and becoming distracted) and legislation against such devices (Google Glass is already getting banned in many areas / countries) - for instance, it's illegal to use Google Glass while driving in the UK, I can't see this being legal in the UK on a bike.

      Reply
  5. Thanks Ray! This was one of the things I requested, as I won a pair during their Tour de France giveaway in July, and should receive them in December! You noted that it is not aimed to replace a GoPro, but any idea on the memory side of thing (i.e. if you wanted to record 720p video how long could you?)

    Reply
    • Rick Woten replied

      Brett,

      I too was one of the lucky winners and have the same question about memory. Looking forward to reading more reviews and getting my hands on the also!

      Reply
    • hollyoak replied

      So did you guys get your early Jet Recon? If yes, how do you like them? Thanks!

      Reply
  6. Peter

    As a sad BlackBerry user, I assume I'll be out of luck using the phone app connected features, but will the other functionality still work without Android or iOS phone on board?

    Reply
  7. morey000

    just got me thinking. eyeglasses with a 1GHz processor in it. FWIW, the Cray 3 computer had a 1 GHz processor (actually, I think 4 of them, and eventually 64 of them), back in 1993. That was just 20 years ago (which all of a sudden, doesn't seem that long) That was the first processor I recall hearing of that ran at a billion ops/sec, and probably cost a half a billion to develop and build. And now, eyeglasses are as powerful. Just freaky. Can't imagine what 20 years from now will bring, but Ray will be here reviewing this stuff for us. Doing the 'geezer tri electronics' review blog.

    Reply
    • CSN replied

      These glasses are far more powerful than a 20 year old 1GHz processor. Do not confuse clock speed with processing potential, modern processors do far more per clock. If you look at PC CPUs, you will notice they hit a wall with clock speed in recent years but continue to improve in performance.

      Reply
  8. niels

    dc where is the head on Display no pics

    Reply
  9. Kaare Bottolfsen

    Hi Ray.

    Will these glasses be usable when running too?
    If the add on units are as heavy as the glasses themselves I wonder if the glasses would detach from the nose when running? With the result of the glasses jumping up and down...

    Reply
  10. Eli

    So the battery can only charge when on the glasses and the glasses are plugged in? No ability to charge the battery without the glasses? Thinking that on a longer ride you could swap batteries to keep the device going but then you'd probably want an easy way to charge a battery on its own. (not to mention make it easier to charge and not worry about breaking the glasses)

    Wish they had an RX version.

    Reply
  11. I got in on the early adopter batch due in December. I'm really excited about being able to pair this with the Omate TrueSmart phonewatch (watchphone) on the handlebars and being able to leave the big phone at home while still staying fully connected.

    Reply
  12. Peter Sumner

    Due to most race organisers banning cell phones in races, do you think they will allow recon glasses even though they include reasonably high levels of connectivity? Also, do you think there would be the possibility of mp3 integration into recon glasses? Possibly adding an extra module like the jawbone swim mp3.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      They don't have to though. Meaning, you don't need your cell phone to make them work.

      The speaker is in the side, so it can play music.

      Reply
  13. Filip

    Size size size and one more time - size. Is it so difficult to understand that most people will not want to look like cyborgs? It needs to be discrete, even if functionality was to suffer (delegate more to other device - be it your phone or dedicated whateverpod you wear on your belt). Seriously - it would be a no brainer if it didn't look like a prop from a robocop film.

    Reply
    • Eli replied

      The technology you speak of doesn't exist yet.

      Reply
    • Guillaume replied

      Actually, I'd say it would be doable, but probably much more expensive. A flexible translucent AMOLED screen (Samsung makes one) could be built in the glass itself and turned on/off as needed. All the remaining hardware could be tucked away in the frame of the glass itself.

      I'm sure the key is not the tech itself not being available, but rather to keep the price low enough that people will actually buy it once it hits market.

      Reply
    • Eli replied

      So instead of having a very high resolution screen like the recon jet that apears to the user as if it was farther away and outside the center of their vision you want something that will completely take over the vision of a person? That flexible screen isn't at the high enough DPI level, not to mention the extra lenses you'd need to make it apear to the user as a fartehr away bigger screen.

      You expect the galsses to just be a wireless display so the phone does all the work? That means bluetooth is useless, so you'd need some new hardware to plug into the phone to transfer an image and some non-trivial sized hardware in the glasses.

      Fitting the camera in the glasses. Have you seen the video glasses out there:
      link to amazon.com
      Oh you wanted some form of data transmission so the video wasn't saved on the glasses but was wirelessly tranmited to the phone in real time?

      Thats all ignoring the fact that they have interest in their device now so no need to take away functionality and adding large costs to the device.

      Reply
    • Guillaume replied

      Nah, the unit stays standalone. You just reallocate the hardware in a different position.

      If you look at the size of the Recon hardware unit, you could have easily tucked it all in the frame of the glass - make the branches slightly bigger, use the forehead part as a bridge and balance hardware on each side. Is it better? Totally depends on your opinion of whether or not the Robocop look is good or not. I don't mind either. I'm just saying the look could have been different.

      The Recon unit is a WQVGA resolution. I'm not judging whether or not it is good, but the fact is, whether or not it is good, it is still a 400x240 resolution. Now, the purpose of this screen is definitely not to watch a blu-ray movie, I agree and I'm sure it will be entirely serviceable since you'll have the feeling of watching a tiny 30" screen from 7' away (the blockiness will be lost in the distance). My point was, and again, that was purely as a thought of how the design could have been made different, to use Samsung's Youm screens and make one side of the glasses a full screen that would have been turned on and off when needed. The idea was not to make a better or worse resolution, just an alternate design.

      Like we said, price, in the end, is the determining factor.

      And I still think that either design shouldn't be used while biking. There's already enough distracted bikers out there ;)

      Reply
  14. marc steingrand

    great any update during the ant+ forum , just seent there advertising during ironman transmition on the internet!

    Reply
  15. marc steingrand

    hello ray any news on the recon?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      They announced a week or two ago that they're delaying into the new year sometime.

      Reply
  16. Iscoro

    What about the speakers´ sound quality? Can you hear it Ok even when riding in a windy environment?
    How do you update the maps in the GPS?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Unknown at this point on sound quality. As noted, the units weren't active in the meeting, unfortunately.

      Reply
  17. Reddy

    Is it possible to shift as much of the devices as possible to the arms of the glasses? Should make it less obtrusive.
    Lenses are polarized--how about photo-senstive?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      The design is such that you can remove the bulky parts and still use the glasses normally.

      Reply
  18. Ely Gomez

    Is it waterproof? what about rainy days? or thar water refresh on the head when running?
    Is there anything new since you made this article?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      They've pushed back the release date to fall.

      Given their existing snow units are just fine in the snow/rain, I don't expect any issues here.

      Reply

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