Vancouver, Canada-based Recon Instruments has a new product that puts ride metrics right in front of your eyes. The company’s Jet combines the computing power of a mobile phone with a display that’s easy-to-read and unobtrusive, powered by a battery that can last for hours, and fits on a pair of sunglasses. The new product was unveiled today, and the first units will arrive in December.
Recon Instruments’ co-founder Dan Eisenhardt was a competitive swimmer at the national level in Demark when he started searching for a device that could give him instant and accurate updates on his performance metrics in the water, but found none. Later, while in graduate school at the University of British Columbia, Eisenhardt and classmate/Recon co-founder Hamed Abdollahi developed a solution that could eventually quench his thirst for data. The pair came up with an idea for a heads-up display for ski goggles, and with the encouragement of a professor, took the idea and ran with it.
The first designs for ski goggles incorporated the processors from a Texas Instruments graphing calculator. Metrics such as speed and airtime were projected onto a small display at the bottom right side of the goggles’ lens, where the information and the actual display hardware were the least obtrusive. With funding from angel investors and government grants, the first version of the goggles, called Snow, went into development in 2008 and finally launched in 2010. Snow sports were a good start, but the company’s reach was limited by the seasonal ski season. Targeting cyclists, many of whom ride year-round, was a natural progression, and many riders want the same kind of performance data that Recon already provides to skiers, including the ability to connect in real-time with friends via mobile devices.
The Jet provides its own GPS-derived data such as speed, altitude, and gradient, and also connects to other networkable devices—power meter, heart rate monitor, speed/cadence sensor, or a smartphone—and display data from those devices. If connected to a smartphone, Jet can even display more mundane data like text messages and incoming calls. To motivate you further, the glasses are even capable of displaying a ghost rider to pace your workouts, or a Strava KOM “pace indicator” to show your progress on a specific segment.
The Recon Jet system incorporates three components: the optics themselves, the Recon display and processor, and a swappable power supply. Recon-ready eyewear comes in a range of options, including lens shade, polarization, and size.
The Recon unit itself fits snugly against the lower right side of a pair of sunglasses, on the outside of the lens. A rubber gasket holds the display against the lens and keeps out moisture, preventing condensation. The company says that most users will be able to read the display, regardless of what corrective eyewear they use. You control the display by swiping and tapping a sensor on the unit, just as you would a smart phone. Recon’s battery is on the left side of the glasses, to balance the unit.
The Recon Jet sits on a normal-sized pair of sunglasses.
The Recon Jet display is based on technologies developed for Recon’s snow sport goggles, but will display metrics such as speed, power, and time.
The Recon Jet system, the company says, adds about one ounce to a pair of glasses. In your hands, it feels heavy and unbalanced compared to a pair of sunglasses. But after five minutes of wearing the system, you stop noticing the added weight.
The brain that drives Jet is a 1GHz dual-core ARM processor, with 1GB memory, and 8GB storage—similar to the technology powering some smartphones. The Jet display is 428x240px and incorporates a prism and magnifying lens to make the display appear to be a 30” LCD, as you would see it from seven feet away. The 16:9 display is clear and easy to read. Every Jet unit has 9-Aix sensors, powered by an accelerometer, a gyroscope, and a magnetometer. The company says their battery will last as long as nine hours, depending on how you use the system, the strength of your GPS signal, and environmental factors including temperature. You can connect to other devices via Ethernet (“wifi”), Bluetooth low power, and ANT+. There’s a micro-USB connector for data transfer and charging.
When wearing the Jet, the display is only activated when you look at it; an infrared eye-sensor toggles the display to extend battery life. Glance down, and the display is instantly enabled and viewable; when you return your focus to the road ahead, the display turns off. To the user, it appears seamless. Speed, power, grade, and other metrics are displayed simultaneously in a segmented view, similar to the interface used by Garmin, and you can set which metrics are displayed at any time.
You can also display route information thanks to a navigation interface—especially useful for finding your way home. There’s also a feature that lets you locate friends—ideal for keeping your group together on a Gran Fondo.
Linking a GoPro or Contour camera can provide streaming video to anyone following a Jet wearer; and you can even give yourself a rear view by mounting a rearward-facing camera and connecting it to your display.
You can pre-order a Jet now for $500, and units will ship in December. After July 21, the price will jump to $600. The glasses have a one-year warranty, but it does not cover crash replacement.
The Recon Jet shows a lot of promise, but we hope the glasses become more sleek. As to which cyclists will be best-served by this new product, one obvious application is riders who enter a lot of time trials—the ability to watch their power output without breaking from their aero position will be a boon to performance.