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Cycling Gear Reviews

Recon Jet Glasses Hands On – Taking the connected bike, one step too far

I saw the concept of the Recon Jet, and I wanted it. Google Glass was just beginning to wind up its marketing push. Its been a very varied 2 years since the Recon was first displayed their version of connected sports glasses, and as well as going through a series of software updates, the company was even bought by Intel of all people, resulting in a nice little price drop due to Chip-Zilla’s manufacturing muscle.

As of November 2015 – Recon Jet finally has an option to take optical prescriptions. The question is, has it been worth the wait?

Recon Jet glasses hands on review

Recon have had a huge journey with the Jet glasses, culminating in sale of Recon itself to the chip manufacturer Intel. The immediate effect to this has been a reduction in manufacturing costs, and an influx in cash, which Recon, in a surprising move, passed on to their original customers by offering a rebate of the cost difference. Now that’s what I call customer service – especially as this offer goes back to ALL previous purchases, even down to people who bought units when the glasses were first released in 2013.

Hands On

The Recon Jet come with two lenses out of the box, a dark sunglasses lens, and a clear lens for the 99% of the time in the UK when the sun isnt out!

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On the LEFT of the unit is the rear facing battery pack. This is connected to the computer side of the unit on the RIGHT, through wires running along the inside of the frame

On thhe RIGHT side, is the guts of the Jet, projecting from the frame around the lens, rather than hanging off, or being an enlarged arm

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Moving from left to right, you have the power light. The black square is actually a touch sensitive strip for navigating around Jet’s UI, to swipe forwards and backwards through the menus.

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In many ways, I wish the pad was a little bit larger, as it can mean you miss initially, esp if using gloves

The small dot is the microphone, which could have perhaps done with additional wind noise muffling, or an alternative location. Finally there is a sunken area before the screen pod, this houses the eye level mounted camera.

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Underneath the the RIGHT side module is the joystick nub used to adjust the focus of the eye piece it sits under. Surprisingly ease to use actually, although it might have been better if the button could be pushed back inside the unit when using the case, so that you dont accidentally adjust the focus during transit in the glasses box.

Behind that is a toggle switch for “back” movement through menus, switching the unit on, and selection of options/starting rides

Both pods can be removed from the glasses, in case you wanted to wear a particularly expensive pair of shade. But in all seriousness, I do find that a useful feature, meaning the Jet has dual function almost – but I dont think I’d want to be taking the unit in the pool!

Screen

This is essentially when the whole device is about… and I’m not a fan

The screen is supposed to become part of your field of vision. I was almost expected a HUD style system that didnt impact on my vision. As it was, the screen, whilst very impressive for it’s size – think digital view finder on an SLR. The text and the symbols on the display are very clear and easy to read. I was actually surprised by the clarity of the display and the content it could display, although not easy to photograph!

 

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As I’ve already alluded to, the problem with the screen is the way it blocks your lower vision. You can simulate the same by putting a finger in the bottom of your lower eye lid. For me, the obscuring block kept drawing my attention. Yes the screen is focused to my peripheral vision, to the clarity is great, but its the arm, and housing of the unit that could do with being, well transparent for want of a better phrase. Even crystal plastic might have been an improvement, to allow more light in and aid your brain in dealing with the screen.

I now under stand why Google Glass went for a glass prism system, as that blends into your visual field more effectively.

The unit has “Glance detection” technology, which when enables, saves the battery by switching off the screen when you are not focusing your eye on it. This approach works very effectively, but then you are left with a black box on the bottom of your vision but does then increase on the 4hr battery life

Specifications

Sensors

  • 3D accelerometer
  • 3D gyroscope
  • 3D magnetometer
  • Pressure sensor
  • Infrared (IR) sensor

Connectivity

  • GPS
  • Bluetooth 4.0 (Bluetooth Smart)
  • ANT+™
  • Wi-Fi (IEEE802.11a/b/g/n)
  • Micro USB 2.0

Battery life

  • Up to 4 hours of typical use per battery

Camera

  • 1280×960
  • Supports 720p video

Photos

Given the nature of where I was using the Jet Recon, I wasnt able to download any of the video or photos from the day – shame, hence borrowing a YouTube video of video test.

Now here is one area that I do think the Jet hits it out of the park. Helmet mounted cams look daft, but they do allow a more accurate view of what the rider is seeing. Bike mounting camera provide frequently a better image due to reduced movement, but also only give a fixed angle.

There is always a “But” with the Jet.

By mounting the camera on the glasses, Jet have come to have the best of both worlds…but the resolution is relatively low 1280×960 for still photos. Oddly, as you can see above, the video looks much better, in my opinion, than stills

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Whilst the video is good, it is limited to 15sec clips, which is a little surprising with the 8Gb of flash installed

Usage

This is probably going to be very personal, but I did NOT like the Recon Jet. Maybe its due to my crash, maybe I’m just funny about my vision, but a device that obscures part of my visual field I found VERY distracting as much as unnerving.

The glasses work over ANT+ and thus are able to show a wealth of data from cycling specific sensors – Speed, cadence, power. You can also pretend to be a fighter pilot using the GPS display, for direction

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But I’m happy to just glance down at my Garmin. Yes I take my eye off the road in order to do so, which is technically an even bigger impact on my vision of the road. In either case, I wasnt able to get used to the Recon Jet. Now I say I’m happy to look down at my Garmin – the 1000 has probably the worst blue-tooth implementation I’ve come across. Occasionally calls and texts do appear when riding, but that is definitely the exception not the rule. Its when you see the smart notifications coming through with the Jet that you really see some of the benefits of the technology

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Perhaps if you are more used to their goggles, which use similar screen technology, you’ll be happy with the Recon Jet?

From a cycling perspective, you head is relatively stable, running around in these, even for a few indoor circuits, I found the screen difficult to focus to. I think the real market here is cycling, not running.

Recon has their own connectivity software – Recon Engage which allows you to upload activities from the Jet, but also tweak the software and importantly the display, and load additional apps to the Jet.

As the Jet has an open source approach, its hoped that people will produce their own apps for the Jet. One of which will hopefully allow for longer video clips!

Prescription Costs

I have glasses, so I know that going anywhere near the Recon Jet without the use of contact lenses would likely be an expensive proposition. Certainly in the UK there are various opticians that will do “professional” optics. Basically if you bring in a pair of swimming goggles, or a dive mask, they will make you a lens to fit and essentially glue it in place. This isn’t too tricky, as you are normally dealing with adding to a flat piece of glass, but probably something more than a tube of PritStick is required!

Getting prescription sunglasses made is slightly more difficult, as you are dealing with curved glass. For that reason many, but by no means all, prescription sunglasses tend to be regular glasses lenses with a coating applied, or occasionally in the case of a Polaroid shades – a very thin piece of Polaroid lens, with no noticeable refractive impact, applied to the original lens.

Oakley’s for example though, because of the proprietary coatings and shape, have to be sent off to the Oakley factory if anyone with less than perfect vision wants to be able to see out of them – for us in the UK, that means our frames doing a trip across the water to Ireland, so its not exactly a quick option.

The point is, as of November 19th, Jet Recon have finally released their response to those of us who need a little bit of optical help

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Jet have teamed with Rochester Optical who seem to have THE market currently for prescriptions to go into smart glasses

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The solution is a smaller prescription lense which sits inside the original glass of the Jet Recon. You can’t wear normal Recon’s with glasses, they just won’t fit AND you can’t see the screen either, it appears that the prescription option has the lens pressed against the screen mount, hopefully giving easy focusing.

The solution is rather elegant. Rather than affecting the device you buy – as happens(ed) with Google Glass, with the Jet Recon, you purchase the device and then a frame insert.

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Rochester Optical is US based, where the frame insert comes in at $199. I have not been able to find out what is the option for UK buyers. When I asked Recon Jet…even after much debate about trying to find what the cheapest would be, the best answer I could prize out was “North of £250…Probably”

Thats A LOT of money to spend, not on the device, but on the ADDON, required to let you USE the device.

Basically the Recon Jet had better be life changingly good if you are already a glasses wearer. Sadly is not even brilliant for those with regular vision!

Conclusion

The Recon Jet looks great on paper. In reality I didn’t like it. The camera is of surprisingly low quality given the cost of the device. The prescription cost is quite likely to make the device to be prohibitively expensive for many, especially people such as myself who only use contact lenses when absolutely forced to.

Partially from a purely financial perspective, but also on a value based level, I didnt feel that the  features the Recon Jet brings to a bike (and certainly not when running) were significantly superior to those already on most cycling head units.

Yes the eye level camera and video is interesting, but I have to come back to my previous point regarding the unit – for the price, the image quality is particularly poor, and a current 15 sec video limitation is just poor.

Now that Intel has purchased Recon, I’m very interesting to see what the Recon Jet 2 looks like. There are some GREAT features here, the eye level video, smart notifications, open source software and great GPS navigation displays, certainly lots of stuff to build on. But I think I’ll hold onto my cash to see what Big Blue is able to do with the next generation device – that should be something with an R&D budget from Intel!!

 

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James Gill

Author of TitaniumGeek, which started after smashing off my RIGHT elbow. Feel free to drop me a line about sports tech, medicine, or frankly anything that you want to chat about!!