Today, Oakley and Intel launched a project that’s been in the R&D lab for over two years: Oakley Radar Pace. Per Oakley, “Radar Pace is a real-time voice-activated coaching system that creates a unique training program, tracks your performance and coaches you in the moment.” This involves a two-part system: the hardware (glasses equipped with Bluetooth, headphones, speakers and a microphone) and an accompanying app (the dynamic “brains”). Together, they form an interactive and compelling workout companion, fit for both lay and competitive runners and cyclists.
Hardware. The glasses are the most impressive part of this launch. The Pace frames are a grand departure from the Thump MP3 of the past, integrating the tech (trackpad, microphone, earbuds, accelerometer, gyroscope and barometer) into a slightly more developed, yet not bulky, Radar frame. The glasses are sweat-proof (naturally) and don’t sit heavy on the bridge of the nose (the weight is distributed near the temples, so they’re heavier by the ears), and the components, from the trackpad on the left side of the frame to the removable earbud arms, feel sturdy in preliminary testing. The earbud audio derived from the glasses is robust, if a bit tinny. The glasses come with two interchangeable lenses (clear and Prizm), a battery life of 4–6 hours (depending on individual use), and charge through the ports where the earbud arms attach.
Software. The Radar Pace app syncs with the glasses via Bluetooth and operates on both iOS and Android. Yes, you need a smartphone nearby to operate the glasses. The app syncs with ANT+ and Bluetooth devices, and can track heart rate, power, speed, cadence, distance and time. The glasses’ built-in microphone and trackpad can be used to interface with the app verbally and manually, respectively; touch allows users to switch songs or adjust volume on music, and speech allows users to interact via Intel’s “real speech” technology. While running or riding, you can ask: “OK Radar, how’s my pace?” or “OK Radar, what’s today’s workout?” or “OK Radar, how’s my power?” The app responds via the earbuds. The Pace app also creates custom workout plans. Set a goal, like running a half-marathon in 10 weeks, and Pace will design a plan for your daily workouts (six days a week), then adjust those workouts depending on current performance; have a slow day today, and the app will adjust your workout for tomorrow.
Conclusion. The selling point of the headphones is the streamlined nature of the Pace ecosystem. Sure, you can pair wireless headphones with glasses (or not!), run an app like Nike+ or Strava, and get a similar experience. But, after experiencing the verbal interaction and total integration of the Pace system, that setup feels a bit bootlegged, and it won’t have audio integration. For cyclists mid-ride, it’s nice to be able to simply ask what your pace or power is, rather than digging out the phone from the jersey pocket. While Pace may not become part of every workout for every athlete, it is a verbally enabled coach, a pair of top-of-market glasses and a training plan, all conveniently accessed through one single app and a single piece of hardware. And for that, it should be considered by anyone taking their running or riding seriously.