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Technology Report

Posted by: on August, 30 2013

Found on LavaMagazine.com

Technology is going micro. We’re getting the data—speed, power, pace heart rate, phone calls, text messages, all pushed to our various relay units via a variety of wireless means. But what about compressing all that data into a mode that leaves us hands-free, and delivers it directly… and optically?heads up display

Such is the roundhouse for Recon Instruments, a Canadian company pushing into the next realm of technology at Eurobike. Recon recently was mention alongside Google (with Google Glass) as the two key brands pushing Heads-Up Display technology, and leading the category for the next few years.

Our first meeting Thursday at Eurobike was with Tom Fowler of Recon Instruments. We’ve known Tom from his years with Cervelo (another tech-forward company), and missed a recent press launch for his part promoting his new venture, Recon Instruments. This was our crash course, and we were blown away by how amazing (and remarkably unique) this wearable tech is.

The backgrounder is that Recon Instruments is just a five-year-old Canadian company, started by four University of British Columbia students, who had initially conceptualized a swimming goggle that had a small display tucked into a corner of a goggle lens, providing 100-meter pace, swim time and arm turnover cadence—all the things we wish we had if not for either having to look up at the clock, or gather the data altogether in an open-water swim.

The technical challenges of waterproofing a system were a stumbling block, but the quartet found value in applying it elsewhere, namely in ski goggles. In 2010, Recon partnered with Zeal Optics to create the Transcend, the first heads up display (HUD) snow goggle, delivering metrics from speed to compass direction, buddy mapping and general GPS data. They shipped 50,000 units and have since partnered with Oakley and Smith in addition to Zeal. Further, Recon created an aftermarket, add-on display that would work with compatible goggle models from Uvex, Alpina and Briko.

The company’s foray into the cycling and triathlon has certainly captured the eye of those athletes. A recent pre-release pilot edition sale of their cycling unit—the Jet—during the Tour de France sold out a few days short of the finish of the program.

The Recon Jet delivers a beautiful form factor while delivering hands-free, visual focus-free data.

With production to begin shortly, interest continues to rise. Our first look at the Jet illustrated why; first, it’s just a good-looking full-field frame-top design. On the right is the rechargeable battery. The left is the computer, a 1 gigahertz dual process computer, with the unit being ANT+, Bluetooth and WiFi compatible.

The display itself will have five degrees of pitch and yaw adjust. Users will move through modes using a swipe-and-click action that we see on any Apple MacBook laptop. And a slick feature is Gaze Detection; looking up the road for prolonged periods of time (say, in the aerobars) without looking at the display will see the monitor go to sleep to save battery life. But the moment you glance down to the screen, it lights up. “It actually happens a split second before your brain can even consider it was off—it’s like when you open the refrigerator, and the light comes on, without you noticing it,” Fowler says.

The unit will be open source API, meaning any third-party app developers can create any number of data platforms for the Jet, whether it’s a power metric, a time feature or an interval chart, maybe upload of ride data to online-based services like Strava. The possibilities, Fowler said, are endless, with other applications possible including emergency healthcare, where taking up data hands-free could prove to be a life-saving technology use.

We tried Recon on—both in its snow goggle iteration as well as the Jet with an early prototype during our meeting in Germany. Truth be told, it’s much less obtrusive than it may let on by its exterior appearance, with both the monitor boom and the computer taking up temple space on either side of the frame. Certainly, it won’t work on closed-temple aero helmets, but it’s no problem with standard helmet designs.

Price will be $599, which, when considering the technology being presented, is par for course.

While we didn’t ride with it, a simulated head position indicated that when looking up the road, the display is not only not obtrusive, it’s scarcely noticeable at all. There’s simply plenty of viewing area above the monitor to scan the road as you normally do when riding.

Will this be good for tri? Not only will it be good for tri, it’ll be perfect for triathlon. Given the emphasis put by fitters on remaining in the aero position, this is going to be a facilitator. No need ot look down at a Garmin to see your vertical ascent, speed, normalized power or distance; it’s all in your field of vision, right in the aerobars. Running, and the bouncing associated with that? That’s a good question. We’ll be keen to test Jet to see if this assumption holds true when they’re ready, both with regards to riding and running.