What Happened to ReconInstruments.com?
Recon Instruments was a Canadian technology firm that produced wearable displays and smart glasses. Its website was ReconInstruments.com. The company marketed its products as “heads-up displays” (HUD) for sports (Source).
If the attention that Recon Instruments received from prominent industry players like Motorola and Intel is anything to go by, it could be said that Recon was a promising business. The firm also had a partnership with APX Labs.
Today, the website ReconInstruments.com is no more. What happened to such a promising business? We follow its history, look at its flagship products, the funding it got from Motorola, and its acquisition by Intel, to find out what eventually happened to it.
An archived page of ReconInstruments.com from 2008 reports that the company’s “flagship product [was] an interactive goggle called Dimension goggle which featured a microdisplay dashboard that allowed the user to view real-time personalized statistics while skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, or during any moto-cross activity” (Source).
Recon Instruments would later become known for its two products, the Recon Snow2 and Recon Jet. Introducing the Snow2, the company boasted that the product was “the world’s most advanced wearable computer” (Source).
At the CES 2016, Recon Instruments displayed its paintball mask (developed in conjunction with the paintball maker Empire) with a built-in heads-up display. Describing the mask, AndroidPolice.com says “The Empire EVS ‘smart mask’ includes a tiny Google Glass-style display in the visor that relays various bits of battlefield information to the player” (Source).
Recon stated that it had successfully shipped over 50,000 units of Recon Snow2 as of September 2013, far ahead of its competitor Google’s Google Glass (Source).
What did the Recon Instruments products seek to do?
To get an answer, we looked at the company’s marketing material. The company’s products attempted to do the following (Source):
Deliver performance metrics: Using onboard sensors, the wearable displays and smart glasses could deliver metrics like vertical descent, speed, and distance.
Connection to third-party cameras and sensors: The Snow2, for example, could connect to cameras and a heart rate monitor using Bluetooth.
Smartphone connectivity: The products were designed to connect to mobile devices operating on iOS or Android. This enabled the wearables to display calls, SMS, and connect to the Internet.
The History of Recon Instruments
Recon Instruments was established in 2008 (Source). The founders of the company were Dan Eisenhardt, Fraser Hall, Hamid Abdollahi, and Darcy Hughes. The idea for Recon Instrument’s products was based on an integrated University of British Columbia MBA project undertaken by its co-founders in 2006 (Source).
Investment from Motorola
In a press release published in April 2014, Motorola Solutions Venture Capital, the strategic investment branch of Motorola Solutions, announced that it was investing in Recon Instruments. According to the press release, “the investment from Motorola Solutions [would] be used to accelerate product development and to ramp up global marketing and distribution” (Source).
A partnership with a firm of Motorola’s stature was what Recon Instruments needed, to scale. In the words of CEO of Recon Instruments, Dan Eisenhardt, “As we extend our scalable smartglasses platform into industrial and public safety markets, we can leverage Motorola Solutions’ strength.” Eisenhardt adds, “Motorola Solutions is a global leader in ruggedized communication devices and data services, designed to perform in the most high-stress, high-focus situations imaginable, so the synergy is clear and powerful” (Source).
And what was in it for Motorola? “Recon Instruments is well known as a pioneer in the smart glasses market, with a focus on utility, durability, and comfort,” said the managing director of Motorola Solutions Venture Capital, Tony Palcheck. Palcheck adds that the Recon Instruments products applied to Motorola’s vertical markets where customers were looking for “hands-free in the moments that matter” (Source).
Intel Acquires Recon Instruments
In June 2015, reports indicated that Intel had acquired Recon Instruments. Reporting about the deal, CanadianBuisness.com says that the acquisition was a win-win situation as “The Vancouver maker of heads-up displays needed scale, and Intel wanted in on the burgeoning wearables market” (Source).
The companies did not disclose the terms of the deal. However, it is believed this acquisition cost Intel $175 million. Asked to confirm this figure in an interview, Eisenhardt’s answer didn’t disclose much, “I can’t confirm or disconfirm that. Every term of the deal is under the covenant” (Source).
Asked about what made Intel so interested in Recon, Eisenhardt indicated that he thought Intel had “missed the boat on the mobile phone revolution” and did not want to miss it again in the wearables. Eisenhardt also predicted that the wearables are likely to become a bigger market than the mobile phone one because “any person could have any number of wearables on them whereas most people only have one phone” (Source).
Partnering with APX Labs
In 2015, APX Labs announced a partnership with Intel’s Recon Instruments. In the press statement announcing the partnership, APX Labs calls itself a global leader in proprietary software for smart glasses (Source).
The Recon Jet used APX’s innovative Skylight software that allowed workers in critical industries such as manufacturing, oil and gas, and field service to communicate and access sensitive data “without interruption from the task at hand” (Source).
For Eisenhardt, the partnership with APX Labs was a demonstration that the Jet smart eyewear platform was scalable into industrial markets (Source).
What Then Happened to Recon Instruments?
A 2017 article published on the bicycle retailer news website BicycleRetailer.com reported that Intel had quietly discontinued the Recon Jet smart sunglasses. The same article speculates that this was a sign that the processor manufacturer was finding it challenging to keep up with the wearables market (Source).
Indeed, Intel did not announce that it was shutting down its wearables division. CNBC Markets reports that there was some industry gossip about Intel venturing into the arena of Augmented Reality. This didn’t eventually happen. The Recon brand was eventually shuttered in 2017 (Source).
Recon Instruments Alternatives
Even though Recon Instruments shut its doors, we identified some companies in the same field.
Telepathy: Has been developing wearable tech devices since 2013 and is working on its product, Telepathy Jumper (Source).
GlassUp: Markets the F4 augmented reality visors ideal for industrial applications via remote assistance, image recognition, and on the job training (Source).
Vuzix: Makes smartglasses that it says offer ergonomic and durability, designed for industrial application (Source).