A few years ago, Recon Instruments showed us one of the first truly commercial heads up display devices in the form of snow goggles. Since then, a number of competitors have stepped up with alternatives, most notably Google with its Glass device. Now, in what could be viewed as the best challenger to the growing popularity of Glass, the company has unveiled Recon Jet, a heads-up display specifically designed for athletes.
In terms of design, the device is reminiscent of the futuristic Oakley sports shades that are so popular with many top tier sports professionals. An interesting difference between the Recon Jet and Glass is that the former puts the display lens at the lower part of the wearer's vision rather than at the top.
According to a statement on the Recon Jet website, "Research has shown that looking down is an easier eye movement than looking up. Jet is also designed for outdoor use, where looking up could result in looking directly at the sun, something we want to avoid." Another important difference is that the Recon Jet is controlled only by a touch-pad on the side of the device, no voice control feature is included.
As for the technical specifications, the Recon Jet has a 720p HD video camera, a 3D accelerometer, a built-in microphone and speakers, 8GB of flash memory, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capability, and a Micro USB port. The device functions on an open platform that anyone can develop apps for, but right out of the box, the Pilot Edition of the Recon Jet comes with software that allows users to track their speed, distance, and heart rate. Users can also connect the glasses to their smartphone to see SMS alerts and caller ID.
And while you might think that Google wouldn't want to give exposure to a potential competitor, it appears that the company's reps were welcome at a Google recent conference. Recon Instruments CEO, Dan Eisenhardt, said, "We introduced Recon Jet to the developer community at the Google I/O tech conference last month. To say the response exceeded our expectations would be a massive understatement."
Pricing for the early adopter Pilot Edition is $499, a deal that expires on July 21, to coincide with the end of this year's Tour De France event. Delivery of the device is expected to be December 2013 through early 2014.
The advantages of the Recon Jet over Google Glass are apparent: cheaper price (for now), earlier to market, and an open platform (no worries about Google controlling your personal data). And the idea of targeting the device to athletes is smart. Athletes have been looking for something like this for a while now, particularly now that wearable performance trackers are taking off. But the notion of a normal personal walking around wearing Glass in the same way that they might utilize a smartphone has struck some as impractical at best, and a capital offence against fashion at worst.
And, beyond all the other considerations, Recon Jet is simply the best alternative for anyone who wants most of the facility of something like Glass, but without having to lock yourself into Google's cloud apps that spread your data throughout the search company's software ecosystem.
Given those factors, the Recon Jet has a lot going for it. However, the major advantage Google has is that scores of people have been enthusiastically testing Glass in the public eye for months now. In fact, just this week Google uploaded a video of Wimbledon tennis pro Bethanie Mattek-Sands training with Glass, a clear indication that the company is trying to get more sports pros to adopt the device.
So while Recon Jet seems like a strong alternative to Glass, they'll have to quickly get more user testimonies out there to show potential users how the device works versus the high profile alternative of Glass. To that end, you can check out pro cyclist and Tour de France veteran George Hincapie testing out the Recon Jet in the video below.