TECH
06/27/2013 05:00 pm ET Updated Jun 28, 2013

Recon Jet Isn't Afraid Of Google Glass

Recon Instruments

It's a pair of lightweight glasses with a high-definition camera that connects to the Internet. A screen over the right lens serves up text messages and real-time data, and the person wearing the device controls its functions by swiping and tapping the right side of the frame.

But it's not Google Glass, the Internet-connected eyewear that has dominated technology headlines over the last year. It's Recon Jet, a pair of connected glasses designed for athletes.

And Recon Instruments, the small Canadian company behind the specs, says it's not worried about competition from the Silicon Valley search giant.

When asked about Glass vs. Recon Jet, Shane Luke, the company's vice president of product management, drew an analogy with car manufacturing: One car company makes a pickup truck, for example, and another makes a sports sedan. "They're both vehicles, but the intended purpose is very different," Luke said. "You might have both for different uses."

Google has marketed Glass as an all-around smartphone replacement to be worn by the general -- albeit affluent -- consumer all day long. (The company has not said what it will charge consumers for Glass, but Explorers, those lucky few getting to try an early version of the device, plopped down $1,500 for the privilege.)

But Recon Jet, which became available for preorder on Wednesday for $499, is meant specifically for use by cyclists and triathletes.

"We never intended it to be something that you wear all day," Luke said. "We meant it to be something that's used for an application. For us, it's a sporting application."

I got to spend a few minutes with a prototype of the glasses on Wednesday. While they are noticeably heavier than non-computerized glasses -- the company says the technology adds 1 ounce -- they fit well. But the screen over the lenses obstructs part of your view, so it would take some time to get accustomed to a new blind spot.

Still, the company says looking at data in your line of sight is less distracting than looking down and away from the road.

The glasses have a display over the lower third of the right lens that shows the wearer his or her heart rate, speed, distance, cadence and power, among other things. Competitive cyclists -- and recreational riders who are passionate about monitoring these types of data -- usually have to look away from the road at small handlebar-mounted computer to get the same information.

"Not having to worry about looking down at your computer all the time to see how fast you're going or how many watts you're doing or what your heart rate is, so all of these things really allow you to focus more on the effort you're doing," says George Hincapie, a retired professional cyclist, in a promotional video for the Recon Jet specs.

Recon Jet connects to the web via Wifi, or to a smartphone via Bluetooth, but the glasses don't need to be connected to work. The device communicates wirelessly with power meters and heart-rate monitors, and it runs on an open platform, so developers can build apps for it. The battery lasts about four hours.

Founded in 2008, Recon Instruments brought its first product to the market in 2010. Until now, it's specialized in snow goggles with heads up displays (HUD) that show speed, altitude and maps and allow users to track their friends on the mountain.

While the company declined to provide figures, Luke said that sales of Recon Jet so far have been "a little higher than expected." After the conclusion of the Tour de France next month, the price of Recon Jet will go up to $599 per pair.

"We wanted to keep the price low to make it accessible to early adopters and grow the market," he said.

Correction: This article originally stated that computing technology added 2 ounces to the weight of Recon Jet. The battery and electronics add only 1 ounce, according to a company spokesperson.

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