Having followed the development of the Recon Jet computerised eyewear for a few years, I was excited about getting my hands on a set. I found a promising start to what I am sure will eventually become a fantastic technology, but at the moment is not quite at the level of polish that most people would be prepared to pay for.
The first thing to note about the Recon Jet is its looks. It's essentially a pair of open bottomed glasses with two large bits on the sides. On the right is the screen, touch pad and buttons, on the left is the battery unit. Those components add a fair amount of weight to the glasses, which come in at 86g. This extra weight is not necessarily a bad thing in many cases though as it stops much movement when wearing them.
To help with this they also have an adjustable nosepiece and arms to help keep things secure. They are also fairly comfortable to wear for a considerable amount of time. In fact the only thing that stopped me wearing them for more than three and a half hours is the battery life. That's a significant limitation, considering that many rides will be longer than this.
As I mentioned, the main components sit on the right hand side. There is a small screen which sits in the bottom right of your vision, and is adjustable to make sure you can see it effectively. The screen itself is easy to see and I even managed to use the intelligent selective looking technology, which turns off the display when you are not looking at it.
The menus on the screen are navigated by a swipe pad also located on the right side of the glasses. It is simple to use and cycle through the apps, which include maps, compass, camera, music player and gallery as native. These are supplemented by a few third party apps such as Maple, Go Pro Remote, Refuel and VIRB.
Each of the apps works well. Music is simple to play, maps are easy to follow and the camera is a breeze to use, even when on the go at some pace. Navigation is particularly good. It's very easy to follow on the screen, much easier than glancing down at a GPS unit on your handlebars. One thing that I would change in the next iteration is the quality of the camera though, which has the same quality as a phone from maybe four or five years ago.
In addition to this it acts as a cycle computer, capable of either connecting to external ANT+ or Bluetooth devices. With its inbuilt GPS unit it does not even need to be connected to any external devices to show your speed and route. Connecting my ANT+ devices was simple and I could easily see my speed, cadence, power and heart rate on the screen, which can be modified to show what you want to see or even have several separate screens to narrow down to specific data.
This data is simple to download to a computer or phone, through either a Bluetooth connection to a phone or by connecting the unit to a computer with a USB cable. Updating or customising the unit requires the Recon Uplink software, which bridges the unit and the Recon website, which is where you actually make the changes. This process seems to add some unnecessary steps and it would certainly be more straightforward if you could simply control what you wanted to have on the unit from the app itself.
The biggest drawback of the Recon Jet at the moment is that is has not been adapted for the UK. The screen, the largest part of the glasses is on the right hand side, which makes it difficult to see behind you on the right when riding. On the Continent or in the US this would not be too much of a big deal as not much passes on the right of you, but on UK roads everything passes on that side. It meant that cycling from South London out to the countryside was done without them on, and I would only wear them when on quieter roads.
Initially they came in with an RRP of £579.99, which is expensive, especially when you consider that you can pick up a Garmin Edge 1000 for around £300. However, Recon have reduced the price to £359.99, which is rather more bearable, especially as they are such an exciting new technology.
This review may seem fairly damning to the Recon Jet, but this should not take away from a product that I believe is only the first steps into what will eventually be an exciting and practical technology. For a first generation of wearable cycling computer, it performs well, but has some drawbacks, such as camera quality, blind spots and price. This is not to say that I didn't appreciate the product, especially for navigation, which was a real step up from looking down at my handlebars to work out when I need to turn.
I need to review what is in front of me at the moment though, and what I found was a very exciting, but slightly disappointing piece of technology. I have no doubt that future models will improve on many of the issues that I found, but at present the lack of peripheral vision is something that really needs to be rethought, especially with the screen on the right hand side in the UK market. Did I enjoy using the product? Yes, but more from the excitement of what it will undoubtedly become rather than what it currently is.
Interesting, but some way to go; needs more development in version 2
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Make and model: Recon Jet Black - Heads Up Display Smart Eyewear
Size tested: Black
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Recon says: "Recon Jet smart eyewear is purpose-built for active lifestyles. Featuring smartphone-class hardware and a display equipped with Glance Detection technology, Jet shows the information you need, only when you need it, so you can focus on living the moment."
I agree with much about what they say, but given that development of the Jet started in 2013, elements like the low quality camera and the size of the display (it was developed prior to the recently decommissioned Google Glass, which had a significantly smaller and easier to conceal screen) show its age. Away from cycling it would perhaps be more adept, such as running, in its present form.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
It is a well made product, with buttons feeling crisp and easy to use as well and the track pad working intuitively.
Using the Jet is relatively simple and the interface is easy to use. Everything connects properly and displays well, the thing that marks it down in this category is the battery life, which could be better, the quality of the camera and the major issue are the blind spots created by the enlarged sides.
Seems well made and sturdy, plus with the ability to update the firmware through attaching it to a computer, it will stay up to date with any software improvements.
It is hard to gauge as it is much heavier than most glasses, but most glasses aren't also computers, cameras and GPS units.
Despite the size, it is comfortable to use. The flexibility of the nose pad combined with the arms, means that it fits well on the head.
Again, this is an area that is very hard to judge. More than a cycle computer and glasses, but less than you would have paid for a Google Glass, which sold for around £1000.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
As the first of a new technology it has some exciting features that will develop well in the future. However, at present it has a few disappointing aspects, chief amongst them being the blind spots.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The apps, ease of use and especially the navigation features when using the Jet.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The blind spots created on your right side are the biggest disappointment with this product. In other countries it may not be such a big thing, but in the UK any blindspot should be limited to the left and ideally not at all.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes - It is an exciting new technology.
Would you consider buying the product? No.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? No.
Use this box to explain your score
This is the first iteration of a new technology, one that I believe will have significant impacts on cycling. However, at present there are several key areas that should be concentrated on, especially the blind spots created for the UK market.
Age: 27 Height: 6 ft Weight:
I usually ride: Cannondale Supersix Evo 6 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
George spends his days flitting between writing about data, running business magazines and writing about sports technology. The latter gave him the impetus (excuse) to get even further into the cycling world before taking the dive and starting his own cycling sites and writing for Road.cc.
When he is not writing about cycling, he is either out on his bike cursing not living in the countryside or boring anybody who will listen about the latest pro peloton/cycling tech/cycling infrastructure projects.