Sports

Oakley’s Radar Pace Sunglasses Help Runners and Cyclists Train Smarter

Rob Kelton iQ Contributor
Oakley's Radar Pace

Using state-of-the-art speech technology, these smart sunglasses come with a built-in coach that tracks workouts, monitors biometric data and encourages peak performance.

Instead of squinting awkwardly at a phone or smartwatch, trying to read heart rate data or pace state while running or cycling, fitness enthusiasts could just ask for the information and have the device read it back to them in real-time.

That’s how Oakley’s new Radar Pace eyewear works: Inside the sporty frames is a voice-activated coach that athletes can speak to naturally while it tracks their workouts, nudging them forward with in-ear feedback.

“This technology is pretty much state of the art,” said Jim Firby, Director of Interactive Agent Technology in Intel’s New Devices Group and the lead engineer behind Intel Real Speech, the technology that gives voice to the coach.

Oakley Radar Pace

Other voice technologies like Siri and Amazon’s Echo lack context, said Firby, whose team worked side-by-side with Oakley design engineers for two years. Intel Real Speech has the capability to have conversational dialogue.

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Programmed to understand more than 50,000 phrases in the fitness domain, Real Speech understands the context of what users are saying, and the glasses won’t make the wearer restate a question each time. Take this real-life example:

Runner: What’s my heart rate?

Radar: Your heart rate is 150 bpm (beats per minute)

Runner: And my cadence?

Radar: Your cadence is 70.

Runner: Is that good?

Radar: Your cadence is too low.

Runner: How about now?

Radar: Your cadence is right where I want.

Oakley Radar Pace graphic

“50 Pounds of Tech in 56 Grams”

Radar Pace includes two primary components: eyewear (with integrated earbuds and microphone) and a mobile app for iOS and Android. The light and stylish frames couple speed, cadence and heart rate sensors with a gyroscope, accelerometer, barometer and Intel Real Speech — all in a 56-gram package.

“Oakley is all about design,” said Chris Croteau, senior director of business development in Intel’s Headworn Products Division, “so we had to invent totally new technologies, new manufacturing techniques. We put 50 pounds of tech in a 56-gram frame. When you put it on, you literally don’t know there’s technology on your head.”

Oakley's Radar Pace

The teams put the glasses through rigorous testing, which included baking them in high temperatures, dunking them in water, dropping them from a couple meters, and hundreds of field tests with runners and cyclists. The glasses became available in early October, retailing at $450 on Oakley’s website.

Fitness enthusiasts don’t always exercise on serene backwoods trails. So Firby and team had to contend with noisy environments and make sure the Intel Real Speech processing models could properly cope with wind and other cars, runners or cyclists whizzing by.

The coach is connected wirelessly to an Android or iOS app on the users phone, but it all runs locally, so there’s no need for an internet or phone connection, which helps when training takes users blissfully off the grid.

Oakley's Radar Pace

A Multilingual Motivator

Because fitness enthusiasts aren’t always English speakers, said Andreea Danielescu, a software architect on Firby’s team and a cyclist who tested the glasses three times a week, Radar Pace’s coach can speak English, Italian, French, German or Spanish. Intel and Oakley took months to decide on the right voice talent for the given language and given coach.

Some cultures, Danielescu said, would rather have a more supportive coach whereas others want a more direct approach. Some want a female coach, while others respond better to a male voice.

In English, for example, the coach has a female voice and is, as Firby said, “encouraging and supportive.” In Spanish, the voice is also female but more direct and firm. In German, the coach is male and direct but is also supportive and enthusiastic.

“There were a lot of moving parts with this project,” said Danielescu. “Bringing them all together is what makes this product as good as it is.”

Firby couldn’t agree more: “It’s the coolest and most challenging product that we’ve worked on.”

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