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Recon Instruments Jet: hands-on with a rugged Google Glass, of sorts

Recon Instruments Jet: hands-on with a rugged Google Glass, of sorts

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Gallery Photo: Recon Jet prototype photos
Gallery Photo: Recon Jet prototype photos

Recon Instruments has been building heads-up display headgear for years, but until Google Glass showed up, not many people understood what exactly the company was trying to sell. "Google being in this space makes it easier for us to explain what we do," said Shane Luke, Recon's VP of product management at Google I/O today. "People aren't so confused by our products anymore." The company's next product, the Jet, is a pair of sunglasses built for bike riders, kayakers, runners and general athletes.

Like Google Glass — and Recon's ski and snowboarding goggles — the Jet displays various information on a small screen near a wearer's field of vision. And like Glass, the Jet is currently a first generation prototype that you can't easily get your hands on. As with most prototype products, the Jet currently feels like an unfinished idea. It's unpolished and creaked when I put a pair on. It was tough getting the display in my line of sight because it wasn't adjustable — Luke promised this would change in the production version of Jet.

"If you can write apps for Android, you can write apps for this."

There were paint chips on the red, black and white painted prototypes shown off at I/O, and the touch panels and buttons used to control the headset worked only about half of the time. But when they did work, they worked well. With the Jet on, I was able to easily fly a Parrot AR.Drone around the I/O conference floor using a touch panel to get around a slightly modified version of the drone's Android control app. But idea behind Jet isn't to pilot drones —rather, it's to offer an alternative to Google Glass for athletes. The headset is built to take the sort of abuse that might come about when going on a long bike ride, or running in a marathon. As such, the apps that Recon envisions being built for Jet could show you lap times, distance traveled, maybe even your own heart rate or vital information, when paired with other gadgets, Luke said.

The Jet prototype runs Android 4.2 with a custom user interface, and is powered by a dual-core CPU and a dedicated GPU. There's also a gyroscope and a three-axis accelerometer built in, and the Jet has Bluetooth (for tethering to a smartphone's data connection) and Wi-Fi connectivity as well. Up front, an HD camera is built in, though the company hasn't settled on a specific resolution for the production version. As of now, there is no firm release date or price for the Jet. Luke said the company is still perfecting the hardware specs, sourcing parts, and reaching out to developers to tweak their apps for the hardware. An SDK for the Jet is due this summer. "If you can write apps for Android, you can write apps for this," he said. "The hardware is going to be about the same as you'd find in a smartphone, and similar to what's in Glass."

Recon Instruments Jet prototype photos