Far be it for us to conjecture what you did this past weekend, but if it's anywhere along the lines of rappelling down mountain faces, biking across the country or putting out forest fires, the newly released Jet sunglasses from Recon instruments might be for you. Erring on the side of extreme, Recon's answer to the Google Glass is a souped-up high-performance wearable computer masquerading as sunglasses. The Recon Jet heads-up display (HUD) is a flexible computing platform catering to endurance athletes. As a hybrid of microcomputer and polarized eyewear, the Jet is packed with more sensors and gadgets that you could ever really need... but hey, we know you're weary of skydiving in your Google Glass, so Recon is here to offer an alternative.
With a dual-core processer and serious firepower on the functionality front, we are interested to see how Jet stands up to its sleeker and more mass-market competitors. With a number of obvious similarities both Google glass and the Recon Jet, one major issue seems to be with safety in terms of populating your field of vision with displays and marketing the glasses as usable in extreme sports—generally a time to try and have as few visual distractions as possible. Both products opted for a right side HUD, however Recon dropped the display to the bottom of your field of vision stating:
First and foremost, we wanted to ensure the user's safety by making the display completely unobtrusive. When looking straight ahead, you will not even know it's there. To take in information, you simply glance down, like looking at a dashboard on a car.
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.
On the whole, the Jet eyewear is much bulkier than its competition, weighing in at 60 grams (10g heavier than Glass). The design of the glasses make for an easy time of switching out batteries and replacing parts without having to purchase an entirely new set. Likewise, with a whole host of compatible devices, ability to connect to your Smartphone via Bluetooth, built in Wi-Fi, an HD video camera, microphone, speakers and multiple gesture control it's hard to imagine what isn't packed into a relatively small package. With the addition of different frame options or prescriptive lenses, the Jet eyewear will be on its way to a nice piece of the wearable computing market. The real test of time will be how software develops as a result for the Jet hardware and whether Google Glass and Recon decide to share apps.
While the sheer size of Jet's right-side display isn't the most fashionable approach, the weight is offset by the chargeable battery on the left temple, making the glasses more comfortable. It's a toss up whether a user demographic generally concerned with speed and agility will embrace such a massive piece of hardware worn on the face. Either way, we aren't ready to discount the appeal of hands-free stat checking and Internet access as a strong selling point for the athletically inclined. There also appears to be a bit of a design leap of faith having only a 4–6 hour battery life for endurance athletes. Even with the option to switch out batteries, it seems like a pain to concern yourself with recharging your gear.... especially when you're on pace for a PR in an Ironman.
The Pilot edition of the glasses are available for preorder for just under $500, which seems reasonable when compared with Google glass's price tag of nearly triple the cost. Hard to say if any of the wearable computers will overcome their inherent nerd factor in the immediate future, but the Recon Jet glasses are a step in the right direction. We welcome the newest edition to the augmented reality wearable family—and hope you remember, Recon Glasses or not, skydiving is probably a bad idea.
Teshia Treuhaft is a Michigan-born designer. Upon graduating from back-to-back degrees, a BFA from the University of Michigan and MFA of Furniture Design from RISD, she moved to Berlin to pursue a research project considering shifting paradigms in design education. Teshia currently works at the tangible UX startup Senic.