These Sunglasses Let Police Covertly Take Photos Of Suspects

A wearable tech company is partnering with Motorola to create a new surveillance gadget for “smarter policing.” It’s unsettling, but could it also help keep officers in check?

In the sci-fi TV show Continuum, cops in the year 2077 have supercharged augmented reality vision: They can see whether a suspect has an elevated heart rate, record and play back video with their minds, and recreate crime scenes. We’re not even close to realizing most of those technologies, but one application–recording images of suspects without turning away from the scene–is about to become reality.


Recon, a company that started out making heads-up displays for swimming and ski goggles, is releasing a new pair of wearable computer sunglasses this fall. The Recon Jet offers all sorts of features for athletes. Among them: GPS, onboard sensors to provide metrics like distance and elevation, smartphone connectivity, and the ability to connect to other sensors, like one that measures heart rate. “It’s the GoPro of the smartglass world,” says Recon CEO Dan Eisenhardt.

The Jet glasses are extremely rugged and lightweight (the computer and optics battery only add one ounce of weight), which makes them ideal for other applications outside the sports world as well. This month, Recon announced that it’s partnering with Motorola, which owns 80% of the market in public safety technology, to create a “Smart Policing” platform.

When a cop activates an emergency on Motorola’s APX two-way radio, the Jet smartglass automatically takes a picture of the officer’s point of view and then sends that image to the cloud. Eisenhardt speculates on how the product could be used by on-duty officers: “You’re out on patrol, you stop and walk up to car, and instead of waiting to go to the car to take the license plate number, you can just take a picture. When you walk up to their car, you have that information, completely hands-free.”

Recon hasn’t yet done field testing with police, but that’s planned for the near future.

The idea of having police wearing shades that are covertly snapping photos is more than a little unsettling, especially at a time when police are so skittish about citizens taking photos of them (even though that’s completely legal)–and are arresting people for far less. In a sense, this seems like just one more way to militarize police forces with high-tech equipment. But on-body cameras have also been shown to cut down on complaints against officers, and instances where officers resort to force.

And let’s be honest: it probably won’t be long before all of us are taking constant covert photos from our glasses, too.


About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.