Recon Jet is the $499 Google Glass alternative for athletes and exercisers

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Upset that you didn’t get in on the $1,500 fast track for Google’s Glass(s goog) eye wear? Don’t fret: You’ve got another chance to buy a similar product, and it only costs one-third of the price. Recon Jet, a set of smart sunglasses, is available to order now for the early-bird price of $499. Deliveries are expected in December and if you want until after July 21 to order, you’ll have to shell out an additional $100.

When I look at Recon Jet, I imagine the love child between a pair of Oakley shades and Google’s Glass. The glasses have high-performance polarized lenses in an athletic look along with a rather intelligent set of processors, radios, sensors and a heads-up display (HUD). The actual “smarts” of the wearable device appears quite small and, unlike Google Glass, fits on the bottom portion of a lens due to the HUD.

So what makes Recon Jet so smart? Inside the small brains are many of the pieces in today’s smartphones:

  • A 1 GHz dual-core Cortex A9 processor
  • 1 GB of memory and 8 GB of internal flash storage
  • A trio of 3D sensors: accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer
  • Sensors to read pressure, touch and ambient temperature
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, ANT+, GPS and Apple MFi connectivity
  • An HD video camera and microphone

The display itself appears modeled after another Recon product, the Snow. It’s a HUD for snow goggles that also includes sensors to track speed, height and other metrics for winter activities. On the Jet, Recon says the HUD will appear as a virtual HD widescreen image of 30-inches diagonal as viewed from 7 feet away. This allows for the wearer to read the display without having to refocus away from their environment.

Recon Jet

Jet looks great — arguably better than Google Glass, but as we all know external appearances aren’t everything. The user experience is also important: Cramming too much information onto a small floating screen usually isn’t ideal. And what about apps that can actually use all the sensors? After all, if all those smart components can’t do anything, you have a very expensive set of shades with a camera and display.

That’s where developers come in. Recon already has an SDK and sample app for the Snow and it will have one for Jet as well. So third-party programmers can help bring Jet to its potential. For now Recon says Jet users can see their exercise data from the integrated sensors and can also access third-party sensors such as heart rate monitors. When paired to a smartphone, Jet can display caller ID and SMS.

Data can also be shared with other exercise tracking platforms through an export feature, which I’d expect to be in a smartphone app for Jet. And the device can be used for social networking; picture sharing would be a perfect use case, although I think it would be hard for me to snap a clear image during one of my races!

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