Smart Shades: Oakley, Intel Launch New Fitness Wearable

Holy Google Glass, you hardcore athletes: Oakley and Intel have teamed up to make a pair of training glasses meant to whip you into Iron Man shape.

Called Radar Pace, the smart eyewear, priced at $449, uses a real-time coaching system activated by the wearer’s voice, using commands and questions like “What’s today’s workout?” and “How’s my pace?”

Oakley is owned by Luxottica, the Italian eyewear colossus, which announced a partnership with Google after it stopped making its short-lived (and much ridiculed) $1,500 Google Glass specs last year. At the time, Luxottica execs said it expected smart glass products in both its Oakley and Ray Ban divisions.

Since then, the fitness wearables market exploded. “And it’s is getting nichier and nichier,” says Ramon T. Llamas, a research manager for wearables and mobile at IDC, a market research company based in Framingham, Mass. While some 100 million units are expected to be sold this year, to the tune of some $15.5 billion, Oakley’s offering is likely to appeal mostly to cyclists and serious runners.

“And unlike Google Glass, which was criticized as dorky, these look like just a pair of sunglasses. What’s become apparent in the year and a half since Google Glass went away is that people want technology to fade into the background. This looks like a pair of glasses, and the technology doesn’t get in the way of that,” he tells Marketing Daily. “And because it’s voice-activated, you don’t have to look away, which can be a hazard.”

It’s not the first entry in the category, he says, with Kopin’s Solos Smart Eyewear already established, as is Recon Instruments, which is blazing the trail, including Recon Jet for cycling and Recon Snow ski goggles. (In addition to announcing its partnership with Luxottica, Intel acquired Recon last year, and also announced a partnership with Google and TAG Heuer to launch a Swiss smartwatch.)

The Radar Pace creates personalized training programs, keeps track of performance and provides coaching tips in real time, and answers natural-language questions. Because it also includes a Bluetooth headset, athletes can also make phone calls, send texts and listen to music.

IDC says the fitness wearables market is currently dominated by Fitbit, Xiami, Garmin, Samsung and BBK.

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