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GPS-augmented goggles to turn skiing into interactive adventure

The digital dashboard is embedded in the goggles


Darcy Hughes kicked off the first day of the International Consumer Electronics Show by jumping out of an airplane and hitting 223 km/h in free-fall before touching down on the plush green grass of the Las Vegas Country Club.

Hughes, chief marketing officer for Recon Instruments Inc. of Vancouver, was demonstrating the capabilities of the company's Transcend ski goggles. The eyewear uses Global Positioning System satellites -- along with a range of other sensors -- to deliver real-time speed, distance and performance statistics via a micro LCD display that's embedded in the goggles.

"They're not designed for skydiving -- I only do this kind of crazy stuff for these guys," Hughes said, gesturing toward his colleagues.

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The jump was an apt metaphor for Recon, which today announced that its technology is leaping from being embedded in a single device, to modules that snap into goggles, helmets and other products by partner brands. The first "Recon Ready" products will be available by this fall from performance athletic equipment makers Alpina, Briko and Uvex.

"We're not a goggles company, we're a technology company," Recon chairman Fraser Hall told The Globe and Mail. "We're building a platform."

Based on an ARM9 processor running Google's Android operating system, the new platform will enable users to connect a camera and smartphone via Bluetooth, view integrated maps and include a buddy-tracking system that lets friends find each other on the mountain. Friends will also be able to stream video to each other and watch each other's perspectives as they race down the mountain. They can also share statistics, maps, trails and leaderboards through the company's Recon HQ social network online.

Globe @ CES

"This opens up the platform to developers to create a whole range of gaming apps, mobile apps. We want to develop basic functionality and let others develop the apps they want," Mr. Hall said.

Recon's software development kit will be available to Android developers in the second quarter of 2011.

Although he declined to name any, Mr. Hughes credited Recon's angel investors for making their work possible. "We wouldn't be able to do this in any other environment," he said.

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The Recon kit will run you around $299. Future plans include developing their technology for motorcycles, sunglasses and swimming.

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