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Recon Jet Update: Hands on, and a discussion with their executive team

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It’s been a while since I last talked about the Recon Jet around these parts, aside from passing on the occasional newsletter update.  For those unfamiliar with the product, it’s effectively a heads up display of sorts with a sports angle.  It contains ANT+, Bluetooth Smart, GPS, WiFi, and even a 720p camera – all tied into smartphone connectivity.  So basically it’s your GPS watch mated with your sunglasses (with changeable lenses).

Now despite this time gap since my last update, I won’t go very deep into the unit itself in today’s post either.  Rather, this post serves more as a Monty Python style “I’m not dead” moment more than anything.  I had a chance to sit down with Tom Fowler while at Interbike to get a bit of an update on the product.  Tom (below) actually moved to Recon two summers ago from Cervelo.

The Road to Production:

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In many ways the purpose of the talk wasn’t so much a spec sheet interview on features and status of every function within the unit.  Rather, it was more focused on the path to production in terms of milestones, production facilities and outstanding tasks remaining.

To that end we spent a fair bit of time discussing their signing of their upcoming production facility.  While they haven’t quite yet made the exact company name public yet, they will be doing so soon.  There are probably two notable things about it however.  First is that the facility and headquarters are located in the the US (Southern California to be precise).  Second, the company produces many consumer electronics devices, including some already in the fitness and sports device arena – and those products are all household names globally, some of which I’ve reviewed or discussed here on the blog already.

If you follow manufacturing of complex sports technology products you’ll know that most newcomers to the space stumble through manufacturing in Asia due to non-familiarity with the processes as well as simple language and ownership issues.  These often arise from shared manufacturing facilities where companies are effectively competing for manufacturing line time and supplies (even though they’ve already paid for it).

Shifting that contact point to Southern California means a short 2-ish hour flight from Vancouver (Recon’s headquarters).  It also means everyone is speaking the same language (English) and there are minimal issues lost in translation.  And perhaps most importantly is that this production company actually now has an investment stake in Recon and the Jet’s success – further ensuring their goals are aligned.

At present, they’ve had this new partner work through their planned Jet bill of materials and they’ve collectively worked through some minor tweaks.  These tweaks will see the next round of prototype units coming out in about a month for validation and testing (from this partner), resulting in another set before Christmas before the final production units start hitting just consumers early in the new year.

My quick thoughts:

During my meeting I did get to try out one of the prototypes.  This unit is about as close to the final version from a physical looks perspective as they’re going to get.  However unlike some of my other product tests this week my time spent with the Jet was all indoors.  And in particular, sitting on a hotel lobby couch over breakfast eating a muffin.  Therefore keep in mind I wasn’t descending at 50MPH on a bike, nor doing a track workout.  So my experience and opinions may change once I have that opportunity.

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Nonetheless I was able to work through the user interface and try out many of the functions.  The unit now uses more of a swipe gesture along the right side which enables control and scrolling through the display menu’s, with a simple button along the button that you can actually feel, to press in.

The opposite side (left) is just the battery.

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There are a couple of other notable hardware tweaks though compared to the past.  For example, the pods and connectivity points are slightly larger than past prototypes.  They did this to increase the strength of the unit and to ensure it could better handle wear and tear.

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Next, you’ll notice the addition of a tiny little bump on the bottom of the glasses (below) under the heads up display portion.  This mini mechanical joystick allows you to adjust the angle of the display, enabling you to tweak the position slightly depending on your eyes.  Additionally, you can also slightly change the positioning of the rubber near your nose which will raise/lower/adjust the glasses.

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Now, that’s not to say things were perfect.  But the two things I did find less than ideal were already on the list for further adjustment.

For example, while I did very much like the little joystick to control the position – it didn’t quite get the display where I wanted (so they’re going to add an extra 15 degrees of positioning).  Similarly, I also found the prototype swipe a bit finicky, which is an area they’ve been working on for the next version.

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No doubt we’ll probably see more companies attempting to enter this space as we go into the new year, CES in early January is always good for that.  And then you still have the giant – Google and their Google Glass – sitting out there.  But having worn Glass, to date the apps and integration isn’t anywhere near where Recon is with Jet.  It’s really just a different use case today.  No doubt someday (potentially even years away) the two solutions will converge more and there could be competition head to head, but as it stands today Glass and Jet aren’t actually that competitive to each other.

Hopefully though by the end of the year I’ll have had some on-ride or mid-run experiences with the Jet and can get a better feel for where they ultimately are destined for: Training and racing.

Thanks for reading!

With that, thanks for reading!  If you’re looking to burn a bit of time, here’s all my Interbike 2014 posts packed full of sports technology items.

Update/Heads Up: You can order Recon Jet through Clever Training and support the site here.  By doing so you’ll save 10% with DCR coupon code DCR10BTF, plus get free shipping within the US (and flat-rate international shipping).  Simple as t

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38 Comments

  1. David Manley

    I remember them having a load of ads at what seems like umpteen Kona’s ago. Was that two years ago now or have I gone mad and it was just last year?

  2. Dean

    How was the weight of the new model?

    • It didn’t feel notably heavy, heavier than sunglasses, sure – but I’ve found that once you past the first minute or two of plunking anything on your head (i.e. an action camera), you usually forget it’s there.

  3. MARK MIDDLETON

    Glad to see this in your hands at least, but tired of waiting for it. Looks less appealing and bulkier each time i see it now.

  4. Jose Crespo

    Also worried about weight while sweating during cycling(head angle). Unless they hook behind the ears or have a “head band”.

  5. With their delays have they been able to keep the hardware inside up to date? (If you noticed the processor inside Google glass in the current version is a very old cpu as it was never updated from the initial version while newer cpus get faster and use less power)

    Any word on supporting people who needed prescription glasses?

  6. Jared

    Not sure how often you would need to adjust the display but a wireles handlebar mounted control would be nice.

    • That’d be pretty cool, especially if they just ‘simply’ enabled usage of the ANT+ Remote Control profile. Thus you could use either the Garmin Edge or VIRB remote, or the O-Synce remote to control it. All standardized, so it’d be relatively easy plug & plug-wise.

  7. Duane Gran

    I *want* to believe that they will pull this off because it has so much potential. The tangible thread of hope is that Recon has production experience in the snowboarding environment and there seems to be a some pretty good adoption and use in that domain. At this time I’m tilting toward the skeptical side because there are dozens of situations where they could let someone just go and ride with the thing, but they seem to always do these limited demo sessions. No disrespect meant to Ray here, but this is the umpteenth example of wearing the glasses indoors that I’ve heard of.

    I’m really hoping they can pull this off because it sounds fantastic. Eager to hear about the hands on use though.

    • Scott E

      Ditto.

      Don’t get me wrong, prototyping virtual eyewear is a tough nut to crack. Yet there is a line between R&D demonstrations versus near real world production ready demonstrations.

  8. Santhosh K

    Why do I think all the hints about the production facility point to Motorola?

  9. Chris

    I think your expression in the photo says more than any words could.

  10. alex

    Ray working in IT myself I have to say (And I am not ashamed to say it) you are one of the best technology observers out there. If I wasn’t in the sports I would read your articles just for that.
    Great Job

  11. James Ewing

    April Fools?

  12. Mankul

    I am still hoping they dont delay again but Im still skeptical. I have lowered my expectations im other not to dissapoiny myself and have set my mental production date to 2017. Im still one of the early adopters.

  13. Mark A

    You mentioned that the lenses will be interchangeable? Is that a new iteration? I was an early adopter, but canceled my preorder ages ago, mainly because the lens was fixed…..

    • That’s a good point, I believe that is new. In the last picture you can see the little ‘access door’ that’s in the middle of the glasses that releases the area to swap out lenses.

  14. RayG

    ANYTHING to stop Chris Froome looking down at his data all the time. :-)

  15. Mr Nofish

    It could be OK for running, for cycling I have my doubts: there is something to be said about having full visibility on the sides, be it traffic or checking other riders.

    The display pod looks positively huge, way too thick. It seems they picked a really big frame, on a smaller one it would look even more bulky.

  16. Stev G

    … aaaaaand now I’m glad I didn’t pre-order.

  17. Mankul

    Hi Ray,

    I do have one concern. I plan to use this in time trials. Will the Jet be able to it together with tight fitting time trial helmets like say, Specialised McLaren TT Helmet?

  18. Mankul

    Hi Ray,

    I do have one concern. I plan to use this in time trials. Will the Jet be able to fit together with tight fitting time trial helmets like say,Specialized McLaren TT Helmet?

    • this is exactly the same question I was going to ask?

      Plus now it’s far more bulky than the original so it’s not as cool/neat looking as when I pre-ordered, plus at that level of bulk I have concerns the aero is affected flowing around the TT helmet.

  19. luis

    that thing is a brick… thanks but no thanks.

  20. ziri

    This is slightly off-topic but Google Glass is pretty much dead. It served its purpose as an experiment in wearable technology and to get people talking about its possibilities but pretty much everything Glass does, Android Wear does it better and less intrusively.

    That doesn’t mean that Glass won’t make a comeback in one form or another in the future, but for the inmediate and medium-term future, Recon doesn’t have anything to worry about.

  21. Ashley Walton

    A bit of a catch I think… It is predicated on a smart phone if I read right. Not sure my phone battery would hold up to a 7hr bike ride using GPS + Bluetooth, never mind an IM. Never mind if I want to carry a smartphone with me – nah

    • I think a note 4 would last that long as the battery life on it is great… it is a big phone to keep in your back pocket and not knock on which could ruin your ride

  22. blindbatrunner

    I like the concept, but I have both myopia and presbyopia and typically go runnng with contacts that just correct myopia: is there a way to scale and/or focus the display, and perhaps contrast or display color, to accommodate visual acuity issues?

  23. Birdman

    How does one hear? I see three little holes at the end of the unit (photo 5). Is that the speaker location? How does it sound, especially when there is ambient noise?

  24. Ken P

    “Oh good, the pods and connectivity points are slightly larger than past prototypes” said no consumer of sports technology ever.

    Is there a coolness factor that I’m missing? because these glasses certainly don’t look cool…

  25. Mohamed

    Of everything I’ve backed on Kickstarter, this is what I’m currently looking forward to the most. Along with the BSX Multisport edition (which Ray coincidentally did a write up on recently) this really has the potential to add value to my current training program.

    I’m hoping that BSX or other developers use the SDK provided with the Recon to develop solid integration between the instant feedback Recon is providing, and the multisensor capability the BSX offers. One display computer, one sensor suite.

    All that being said, the device does look a bit bulky, so I’m going to have to get over the Robocop “glasshole” stigma that I’m instantly attaching to this.

    Finally, I do hope that the device comes with a clear lens for night running… though one assumes that just running lensless should be fine unless there is a structural issue.

  26. Jim Whittle

    Would I be able to sync this with my Garmin Edge 705 to get turn by turn instructions on my cycling route?

  27. Erik Wolla

    Ray, I’m not sure to what extent the Jet depends on a smartphone app for (part of) its funcionality.
    I guess internet access is one obvious function, like it is now getting more important for devices like the Garmin Edge 1000. Do you know (or have a “feeling”) if Recon will be biased towards (give priority to) iPhone or Android based phones, or will apps be available for both at the same time?

    • I’ll get some clarification there. I was hoping to sit down with the guys at the ANT+ Symposium, but regrettably there were only so many hours in the day (even with starting each day at 5-6AM and finishing at 1-2AM). So, we’re going to catch up likely sometime this week on things.

      In any event, looking at past Recon products, they’re pretty even on that, though, likely with a slight preference to Android since the unit is based on Android.

  28. Steve G

    How many screens of data do you actually see in the HUD?

  29. Paul

    I have been following this for awhile and almost purchased it when it was supposed to come out in the first quarter of 2014. It is obviously disappointing that it has been delayed. I am not sure the utility as a triathlete. Since have a Garmin 1000, I am usually able to see it pretty consistently while riding. When running a race, however, this seems intriguing as it would be nice to get constant feedback for cadence and pace while not having to look at a watch on the wrist. Does it do cadence?