Built for swimmers who want to focus on their swimming instead of looking at their smartphones or smartwatches, the Marlin GPS Swim Meter is a hands-free, display-free wearable coach that keeps track of position/distance and speed. This is one of the startups I met at the Global Sources Startup Launchpad in Hong Kong.

Created by the Platyens startup, Marlin differentiates itself from existing bands and smartwatches because it is hyper-specialized in swimming. Created by a hardcore swimmer, Marlin attaches itself to the swim goggles band at the back of the head. From there, it can receive a clear GPS signal (unless you swim facing up), while wearables worn on the wrist will be plunged underwater half of the time, possibly making it hard to get a continuous signal.

A bone-conduction sound system also attaches to the swim goggles band, near the ear. Voice is how Marlin will communicate to the user, the latest swim statistics or directions. Bone-conduction is a proven audio transmission method that doesn’t rely on airwaves to reach the inner ear. It is particularly fit for underwater use because the sound quality should be more predictable and consistent when compared to waterproof earbuds.

Marlin’s voice feedback is to the point; it will let the user know what the speed or last lap time was, for example. In open waters, it is possible to plan a specific path with the Marlin app and a map. As the user swim, Marlin can detect a deviation from the planned path and will tell the swimmer to change directions. Marlin does not require the swimmer to have the smartphone during training.

Some people may point out that it could be possible to attach a smartwatch at the same location, and that’s true, but most watch apps have been designed to be interacted with using the screen. Also, the bone-conduction audio makes a world of difference. Obviously, it’s possible to hack something with a watch, but given that Marlin costs about half the price of a smartwatch, the gain in user experience may simply be worth it.

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