Kopin was ahead of the wearable curve when it debuted the Myvu Solo, a heads-up, transparent display that mirrored a connected iPod. That was in 2007; Google Glass, perhaps the best-known heads-up display, was released in 2013. But like Google Glass, the Myvu Solo didn’t gain much traction, a failure the Westborough, MA-based Kopin attributes to a lack of vision — the Myvu Solo had no killer app. That’s why the company’s newest pair of electronic eyewear, the Solos, was designed from the get-go with a very clear niche in mind: cycling.
That much might have been assumed from its appearance. The Solos, said Dr. Ernesto Martinez in a press release, was engineered with “intuitiveness” and ergonomics in mind, including some wind tunnel-testing to cut down on drag when you’re on the road. It’s made of lightweight polycarbonate, has anti-slip temple and nose pads, and packs interchangeable, adjustable lenses that Kopin says “minimize strain on the eye” during longer cycling sessions.
A highlight of the Solos is its display. Kopin’s been making super tiny screens since 2008, and the Solos’s, the 4mm Vista, is one of the company’s most refined. The translucent, 5-inch (thanks to its closeness to your pupil) screen minimizes glare and is readable in direct sunlight, Kopin says. Even better, it’s controllable hands free: “advanced voice extraction technology,” a fancy phrase for the always-on listening features found on smartphones like the iPhone 6S, interprets commands to adjust display settings (i.e., brightness).
What you’ll see on the Solos depends on how you’ve configured the companion Android/iOS app, but by default it’ll show caller ID, notifications, and social media alerts. If you’ve got ANT+ compatible fitness trackers connected to your smartphone, it’ll deliver performance metrics such as heart rate, pace, cadence, power, distance, and duration, and sync that data in real time. You’ll get periodic auditory performance cues through the Solos’s stereo speakers, too, that you’ll have a hard time missing, in theory: the volume can automatically adjust to ambient noise.
It will last six hours on a charge, according to Kopin. That company hasn’t yet announced a release date or pricing.
The Solos will inevitably draw comparisons Recon’s Jet, the Intel-backed smart glasses aimed at athletes, but Kopin’s wearable seems less capable, for better and worse. In offloading sensor tracking and processing power to Bluetooth devices, the Solos is more second screen than the all-in-one activity tracker, but that approach has the potential to boost battery life and reduce costs. Assuming the Solos undercuts the prohibitively expensive Jet ($499), it might very well give it a run — or cycle, rather — for its money.