Intel says that it has made a “significant investment” in Recon Instruments, a company that has quietly emerged on the cutting edge of wearable computing.
Intel did not disclose the size of the investment.
For Intel, the stake means closer ties with a company who has a proven track record in wearable computing. Intel said Friday that it will also contribute expertise in manufacturing, operations, and technology, arguably one of Intel’s competitive advantages over its rivals in the semiconductor industry.
Although most of the technology industry is familiar with innovations like Google Glass, Recon has largely flown under the radar. Its first products combined a heads-up display (HUD) interface projected onto the inside of ski goggles for skiers and snowboarders.
But the most recent $599 Recon Jet, shown at top, provides local mapping and weather, SMS and call alerts, and more through a dedicated software development kit and API. (Note: Recon will take $100 off with a special “Intel100” code through Oct. 8.) All told, the Jet’s combination of polarized sunglasses and a projected display weighs just over 2 ounces.
Recon has shipped more than 50,000 of its displays worldwide, including a campaign in Apple retail stores, said Dan Eisenhardt, Recon’s chief executive, in a statement.
Other wearable tech investments
For Intel, the Recon investment is the latest shot in a fusillade of wearable projects. In September, it hired the designer of Oakley’s AirWave heads-up goggles, pairing him with Steven Holmes, who oversaw Nike’s FuelBand. And at the Intel Developer Forum, Intel launched its Quark line of embedded devices, also aimed at wearables. Quark is expected to be ten times more power efficient than Atom, its current offering for smartphones and other mobile devices.
“I think it’s way beyond wearables, I think it’s about integrated computing,” Intel president Renee James said in an interview with the IDG News Service last month.
“I don’t think we know the boundaries of that. The silicon patch—the thought of just ripping something off like a band-aid, putting it on your arm, your doctor being able to know what your vitals are at that moment, that sounds like science fiction, but it’s real," James said. “That’s where we are at. That’s today’s outer boundary of where we are going with computing.”
The investment was made through Intel Capital, a subsidiary of Intel that invests in digital media, infrastructure, mobility, and other technologies designed to help further Intel’s business. In 2012, Intel Capital invested $352 million in 150 different investments, according to the company.
“In Recon Instruments, we see compelling technology and a solid strategy to capitalize on the wearable revolution,” said Mike Bell, vice president and general manager of the New Devices Group at Intel. “This is an area of significant focus for Intel Capital, and our investment in Recon Instruments is a key part of our approach to innovation in this emerging space.”