Shove the Jet onto your face and you'll find the compute module on the right-hand side, which contains the meat and potatoes of the device. That includes the display, camera, GPS module, charging port and controls, while a swappable battery pack is tucked in on the left. Yes, the micro-USB port for power is not on the battery, because power is transmitted back and forth via a microfilament that's embedded into the lenses themselves. This means that you won't be able to run to your local opticians for a replacement, or get prescription or tinted lenses. The company has said it's working on offering these options, but most of these additional pieces rely on the device becoming fatuously successful before the R&D money begins to flow.
Effectively it's a low-end Android smartphone that's been squeezed in to sit beside your face. Tucked beneath the plastic you'll find a 1GHz dual-core Cortex-A9 CPU, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage along with the various GPS, WiFi and gyro sensors. In addition, there's a 2.1-megapixel webcam poking out the front, as well as a WQVGA (400 x 240) display and an infrared glance-detection sensor that'll enable the unit to save power by frustrating you to death -- see below for more details.
Fashion isn't just about what you wear, but how you wear it, and it's here that Recon paints its users into a corner. If you're traditionally seen in Oakley sunglasses and a North Face windbreaker, then you'll have no trouble wearing this device. I, on the other hand, look like some out-of-touch government minister on an awkward press trip to a factory. That's not to rag on the Jet's styling, but to say that the only way for this to not be incongruous is to wear cycling spandex and a crash helmet.
In the intro, I said that Recon Jet was designed for long-distance runners and cyclists because the sort of granular data that it provides isn't that useful for casual exercisers. The first time I took the device out on a run with me, I left my smartphone at home to see how well it operated without help. This was a mistake, because I was nearly a third of the way through my journey before the hardware locked onto a GPS signal.
Switching on the unit can also be problematic since there's no simple way to tell that it's loading if you aren't standing in front of a mirror. The first time I took it out, I pushed the "on" switch and waited for something to happen, only to be met with a black screen. So, I took it off to check that the white LED that signifies power, situated at the back of the compute module, was actually on. Unfortunately, the system has an infrared sensor that knows when the device isn't being worn, and powers down accordingly to preserve battery life. You can probably work out the rest for yourself.
Once it's working, it's just like being in a video game since you're getting all of this instant data pumped straight to your right eye. The default is for you to be able to see your distance (km or miles), duration, speed (KPH or MPH) and calories, with the option to tweak that further. If you pair the gear with a heart rate monitor or cadence sensor you can also get those two stats, as well as your average power and elevation. You're only allowed four windows per screen, but you can add up to six pages that you can swipe through when you're on the go. It's possible to get all of this data from a connected smartphone, sure, but there's something slightly unreal -- in a good way -- about it sitting in your peripheral vision.
As a nearsighted glasses wearer, I don't want to talk too much about my experience with the display because I just forwent glasses or lenses during my testing; your mileage will obviously vary. I will say, however, that I wish the company had mounted the arm a little higher up. I had the screen tilted at an extreme angle to make it easy for my eyes to peep the data and still, looking down like that on a regular basis wasn't that comfortable.
In order to sync your progress with Recon Engage, the company's cloud-based fitness service, you'll need to download Recon Uplink to your Windows PC or Mac. In addition, there are Android and iOS mobile smartphone apps.
If there's one phrase I'd use to explain my experience of syncing the device to my desktop, it'd be, "There was an error; please reconnect or restart your HUD." Recon Uplink would frequently stall when I tried to upload my jaunts and wiped a chunk of my exercise history when I accidentally opted for an OS update. In addition, it would often disconnect itself and then lecture me about it, when I'd done nothing to anger it. These issues became less frequent with each update, but it's still something that could -- and should -- have been remedied before the hardware left the warehouse.
Recon Jet runs ReconOS, the company's homegrown fork of Android that's been skinned beyond recognition. When you activate the device, the first thing you'll be dropped into is the top menu, where you'll be offered to start a New Activity, while swiping left and right presents panes for apps, records, notifications and settings. Drop down into the apps menu and you'll be presented with a similar left-right screen offering you a camera, compass, gallery, map and music player. Interestingly, these icons seem cribbed from Microsoft's Metro design rather than Android. I'm not sure if I appreciate the shift in tone between menus, but it does make it easier to tell you where you are if you've got one hand on a handlebar.
Plug the Recon Jet into your desktop and visit the companion website and you'll be able to download maps that you can use offline. You can select multiple locations; the only limit being that the total area of your selections is no larger than 10,000 square kilometers. Then, the next time that you're out and about, you can use the wearable as a rudimentary navigation tool. Yes, it sounds cool, but there are some limits to what you can do with the technology.
When it's on your head, it'll take around 40 seconds for maps to load, and then you'll be presented with a Grand Theft Auto-style overhead map view. In fact, given its placement in the lower corner of your vision, you do feel very much like you're inside one of those games. Unfortunately, there are no road markings and no way to produce even a rudimentary guided navigation tool that'd let you plot an unfamiliar route before you left home. It's not a huge problem, per se, but it's certainly something that we'd like to see fixed in a later update.
When I sat down with Recon Chief Marketing Officer Tom Fowler this past January, he said that the Jet's camera was, essentially, for those moments when you're out on your bike and you spot something cool. In his example, he was cycling through a forest outside Vancouver and saw a deer that had bolted by the time he had gotten his phone out. The 2.1-megapixel camera on the glasses would never replace your smartphone or DSLR, but it's useful for quick moments when you need something to shoot with.