Form Swim Goggles: Design and comfort
Unlike previous smart swimming goggles we've seen crop up on crowdfunding websites, Form's Android and iPhone-friendly augmented reality eyewear will launch worldwide on 7 August for a pretty reasonable $199. Eisenhardt said there were multiple reasons why it couldn't make the smart swimming goggles when it wanted to all those years ago.
As anyone who wears swimming goggles knows, fit is absolutely everything. Unlike other swimming wearable startups, Form took the bold decision to build its tech into a pair of goggles it also made instead of offering it as something you can add onto goggles you already own. We imagine the augmented reality display element would've made it tricky to do it any other way without it feeling like a clunky experience.
So the result is a relatively normal-looking pair of goggles with the smarts built into the sides and inside one of the lenses. The goggles are currently only available in an all black model with clear lenses. If you look through one of those lenses from the front you can see the optics that provide the display inside of the lenses. It's also the same side where you'll find the onboard computer that houses the motion sensors to track swimming activity and the battery. At first glance, it does look bulky and something that would draw unwanted attention in the pool, but it actually doesn't stand out or feel cumbersome to wear compared to a normal pair of goggles.
Virtual reality can be used to simulate a number of experiences and enhance them.
One aspect of the design that Form does allow you to tinker with is the nose bridge. Bundled with the goggles are a series of different sized nose bridges that are easy to clip in and out to get the best fit. That fit is important to create a watertight seal and ensure you can see that display as clearly as possible. It took us a couple of nose bridges to find the right fit, but since then it's been fine in terms of comfort and keeping that water out.In terms of comfort, these are up there with some of the most comfortable swimming goggles we've used and that's not something we were expecting to say. Even with that tech on board, they're nice and light and the slim form factor means they're not as portly as your average pair of Speedo goggles. Form says all pairs come with a 45-day Fit Guarantee, so if they just don't feel right, you can return them. Though we think most will be satisfied with what they get here in terms of fit.
We've been using the goggles for a couple of months now and we can honestly say we haven't encountered any issues as far these goggles proving problematic to wear in the water. Once we found the right nose bridge and that band is tightened securely around the back of your head, these goggles do a pretty good job at just being goggles.
Form tells us that its goggles are built to last as well and feature FDA-certified eye seals and the same chemical-resistant anti-fog coating used in diving masks. Fogging is something we were mostly concerned with and it's something you tend to notice over longer periods of time. It's not been a problem yet, but that's not to say further down the line it won't be.
Form Swim Goggles: AR display
So let's talk about that display. To create something that lets you see your data but still the world around you Form has employed the use of its own waveguide optics to make that happen. Other AR smartglasses employ a similar technique like Google Glass for instance.
At its essence, this waveguide employs a structure that guides a light wave to the user's eye and uses suitable surfaces to generate the display that merge as one with your actual surroundings.
The kind of data you can view here is kept to a minimum. It's just text and some very simple icons, but that's hardly surprising. A more simplistic approach certainly makes sense when you probably don't want to be overwhelmed with heaps of data going on on the screen.
The idea is that display should always remain in focus even when above and under the water. While the screen is set as default to work on the right goggle lens, you can wear them with the display sitting inside of the left side as well. You can also tinker with brightness from the companion app and from the goggles themselves depending on whether you're swimming indoors or outdoors.
That indoor and outdoor swimming support is worth talking about as well. Currently, these are only designed for swimming in a pool, so they're not fit for tracking open water swims. They'll work in outdoor pools, but we imagine the lack of GPS ruled out their suitability for being used outside of the pool realms.
Sensorama was the first attempt at VR experience, this unique concept was developed by a cinematographer named by Morton Heilig. This VR device was aimed at stimulating a person’s senses.
Form Swim Goggles: Features and swim metrics
Aside from the augmented reality display, these goggles do function as a swim tracker too. That's all done via the onboard computer (pictured above) that houses accelerometer and gyroscope motion sensors to track your movement in the water.
There's a rich array of metrics the goggles can record and you can view during your swim. You'll be able to see data like split time, interval time, rest time, total time, stroke rate, distance per stroke, pace per 100, pace per 50, distance, length count and even calories burned. Basically, there's a lot here and swimmers are not going to feel shortchanged here.
From the app you can customise which of those metrics you see with the ability to see a maximum of three metrics during a swim. You can customise those metrics for your main swim screen, turn screen and rest screen.
Like most swim-friendly watches you can choose your pool length in metres or yards and there is the option to enter custom pool lengths as well. This can be all done from the two physical buttons built into that onboard computer. It's initially a tad fiddly to scroll and select through the menu settings in the goggles. Once you've perfected which button controls navigating and selecting (it doesn't take too long), you're not left fiddling too long in preparation for your swim.
Form Swim Goggles: Swimming experience and accuracy
That first experience going for a swim with these smart goggles is one you certainly will not forget. Press that power button and an almost luminous, retro digital display emerges in front of one of your eyes. It's not uncomfortable or straining on the eye, but simply a sensation that your eye just won't be used to.
Once you've selected your pool length you'll need to pick whether to track lap swimming or dabble in some interval training. With your selection made, the goggles will prepare to start tracking and all that's left to do is get moving in the water. Those initial strokes feel strange and you can't help but be a little too transfixed on that display. It doesn't take long to just get used to it being there and start to enjoy the fact you have this data in front of you and no one else can see it. Dip you head into the water and the display quality does not change. It just works.
In those first few swims, there were instances when the eye was drawn to the slightly visible outline of the display, but things quickly settle down and that uneasiness is replaced by comfortability and appreciating the usefulness of the information and the way the data is relayed to you.
That display is there to show off your real-time swim metrics and it does a really solid job of it. The transition from the data you see during your swim, on the turn and at rest is done really smoothly. When you finish a lap for instance, you can see a quick summary of how quick the lap was or your stroke rate depending on how you've got those stats set up.
The Royals Are Also Using It. You know that virtual reality is big when highly prominent people are also getting in on it. In March 2018, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle honored International Women's Day by encouraging young women to study science and technology. In the process, they attended a school and tested out a virtual reality set. The couple had a positive experience with virtual reality. They both appeared to enjoy learning about the technology and how the headset works.
What's really nice here is the rest feature that automatically knows when you're taking a break and will record the length of the break. It's accurate and reliable in our experience and its presence for interval training means there's no need to tap a button to start a next set. It just does it as soon as your rest is over. One thing we'd love to get added is a small up and down arrow as a more visual cue as to whether you've been slower or faster than your previous length or set.
Swim tracking accuracy: Form Swim Goggles (left) and Garmin Forerunner 945 (right) While the display is really effective in the way it can present data without feeling distracting, that data does need to be reliable. That accuracy is something that Form does not let you down with. We swam with a host of swimming watches including the Garmin Marq Athlete, Forerunner 945 and the Polar Ignite and found the goggles matched up on the data front. We did have one swim very early in our testing time with a working prototype that was a 3-4 lengths off largely due to not having a lane completely free to swim in that impacted on the accuracy, but on the whole it's been pretty much on the money.
Form Swim Goggles: App
While you can get a nice snapshot summary of your swim at the end of the session on the goggles themselves, you'll need to head into the Swim companion smartphone app to get a better look at those metrics.The app is compatible with iPhones and Android phones and definitely feels like the look is very Strava-inspired. It's made up of your feed where you can see you and your follower's most recent swimming sessions. You can like and comment on swims and then dig deeper to see more detailed information on those swimming sessions. There's a lot to see here. You can see a breakdown of sets, stroke recognition, duration, distance, SWOLF scores and calorie burned. You can pick from the Highlights or a List View, which gives you even more information and will even breakdown analysis by stroke. It'll even pick out your best length or set to see whether you maintain performance or drop off during your session.
Form clearly knows that a lot of swimmers will probably want to push their data to apps they already use. The good news is that Strava, TrainingPeaks and Garmin Connect integration is available letting you push your data to those platforms. Connecting is done in a pretty standard fashion and we managed to successfully sync data to both Strava and Garmin Connect without issue.
Form Swim Goggles: Battery life
Form says its goggles should last up to 16 hours off a single charge, which on paper should be enough to cover a week's worth training for most if you're doing one or two hours training sessions. We tended to swim 40 minutes to an hour sessions and that barely made a dent in the battery life.
Most of the major brands worldwide are investing in some way in virtual reality.
There was actually only the one occasion that the battery ran out for us during a swim and that was more to do with the fact that we'd left them turned on after syncing a workout the night before. Crucially though, powering the display and tracking performance doesn't seems to significantly hammer the battery life, which is something we were concerned about.
When it's time to charge up, there's a proprietary cable that magnetically clips onto the computer on the side of the goggles. Thankfully, it's not the kind of cable that can be easily knocked out of place and it won't take more than an hour or so to get back up to 100% again.