As a casual swimmer, I was excited when trying the Form Swim Goggles with AR display for the first time – out of the water- during a meeting with Form’s founder Dan Eisenhardt and Olympian swimmer Scott Dickens, who is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at Form. It is the first wearable device that allows users to track their key swimming stats in real-time, without stopping to look at their wrist! Indeed, the most popular swim trackers such as the Apple watch, the Samsung Galaxy Watch, or the Fitbit fitness trackers are all worn on the wrist.
Sitting on my chair, I could briefly check that the uni-color display is bright and lets you perfectly read the data and see through while the user interface is super simple and easy to operate. The Form Swim Goggles officially launched on August 7, 2019 and are available in black on the Form website at $199.
I have now swam a bit with those smart AR swim goggles and here is my review:
Industrial Design and Hardware – excellent
In the box:
- Form Swim Goggles
- USB charger cable
- Premium ventilated case with zip closure
- Five nose-bridge sizes
- 45-day Fit Guarantee
- One-year manufacturer limited guarantee
Unlike most AR headsets, such as Google Glass or the Epson Moverio that show off their high-tech status, the Form looks exactly like regular swimming goggles, so no one in the pool will notice your smart gear. You have to look from up close to notice the small box on the side that encases the electronic components.
The waveguide display covers a small square at the center of one of the lenses and is powered by the onboard computer located in the 2 x 0.8 inch (approx) box that sits on the side. Besides the built-in accelerometer and gyroscope, the box features two buttons to operate the display and two external pins for connecting the USB charging cable.
When it comes to industrial design, I am impressed by the lightness and sleekness of the whole package, knowing it has to be waterproof!
"AN IMPRESSIVE AND LIGHT WATERPROOF INDUSTRIAL DESIGN WITH AR DISPLAY AND COMPUTING CAPABILITIES"
AR Display and viewing experience
The low-resolution mono-color dot-matrix display provides a very efficient viewing experience for the few key stats a swimmer needs to track during exercise. The bright yellow color makes the information highly readable on different backgrounds and is optimum for the swimming pool blue background; you can also easily tweak the brightness in the settings.
Right eye or left eye selection
The user interface is designed to work on either eye, you set the preference in the settings, the display will flip vertically, and you will have to turn the goggles over. Since I selected the right eye, the box sits on my right side, and the buttons are located underneath. When used with the left eye, the display is operated from the buttons consequently placed on top of the goggles.
Comfort, adjustable nose bridges and anti-fog technology
According to Form, the Swim Goggles are made of “high-grade materials,” to allow for maximum comfort. The eye seals feature a FDA-certified silicone, and despite the onboard electronics, it feels light and uber comfortable, better than a lot of swimming goggles I have used in the past.
To make everything perfect in terms of ergonomics, Form provides four additional nose bridges with different sizes: XS, S, L, and XL.
Ultimately, if the goggles still do not fit well, the company offers a 45-day Fit Guarantee, and unsatisfied users can return them.
The cherry on the cake is the permanent chemical-resistant anti-fog technology that you can find in diving masks. According to Form, that high-tech special coating is quite expensive.
- Display: Outdoor-readable see-through display, can be worn over left or right eye
- Fit: 5 nose bridge sizes (included), eye seals made from FDA-certified silicone, adjustable silicone strap
- Metrics: Split time, interval time, rest time, total time, stroke rate, stroke count, distance per stroke, pace per 100, pace per 50, distance, length count, calories burned
- Coating: Permanent, chemical-resistant anti-fog
- Battery Life: 16 hours swim time
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2
- Waterproofing: Up to 32 ft (10 m)
- Carrying case: Premium ventilated case with zip closure
Swimming with the Form goggles – great
You turn the display ON by pressing the power button; then the device asks you to connect the goggles with the app. The free Form Swim companion app is available both in the Apple store for iOS and in the Google Play store for Android. Then, from the smartphone app and the goggles, you follow the step by step process to pair and connect the two devices over Bluetooth. It took me a few minutes, and it was painless (done with a Samsung smartphone).
Swimming experience (great)
Between the age 8 to 10 years old, I was a competitive swimmer, and I was selected to compete regionally in Europe for 50 m backstroke and 100 m medley. I resumed lap swimming training over a decade ago when I registered for two years in the US Master program at the Rinconada pool in Palo Alto, CA. That was a fantastic experience with very good swimmers, and the coach was an Olympian from the sixties. At that time, I was unable to swim butterfly anymore. However, the coach selected me to compete for breaststroke, an offer I had to decline since I was only there for the fun. Giving that context is important to show what is my experience as a swimmer wearing various underwater equipment, including goggles and diving masks. As a gadget editor, I have worn and tested my fair share of wearables and AR headsets.
When I swam with the Form Swim Goggles last Saturday for 30 minutes (21 min 22s + rest time), I haven’t trained for over ten years, and it was quite exhausting since it was right after my cardio/weight lifting session.
Setting your preference for the metrics in the app before your session
You do not need your smartphone to use the goggles, and thanks to its onboard tiny computer and algorithms, Form automatically identifies the type of stroke, and detects if you are swimming, resting or doing a turn.
Before you go to the swimming pool and before leaving your phone in the locker or on the poolside, you have to select which stats you would like to see while swimming, for the swim screen, the turn screen, and the rest screen. The metric on the top of the screen is the timer for the complete session, and when it comes to the stats you can see at the bottom, for each screen you can do the following:
Swim Screen: you have one choice from split time, stroke rate, stroke count, distance per stroke, pace per 50, pacer per 100, distance, calories, length counter
Turn Screen: you can select one stats from the list above.
Rest Screen: you can select three stats from the list above.
Starting the swimming session
The Form goggles are very comfortable to wear. I did not need to use one of the additional nose bridges provided in the box, but the strap had to be tighten a little for the perfect fit.
Just before starting swimming – select pool length, lap or interval swimming
The home screen lets you select between the Swim or Setting menu. You navigate with the button on the back (when used with the right eye, with the left eye it is the reverse), and you select/confirm with the power button on the front.
In the Settings menu, you have access to the display brightness, the Display Orientation (allows you to choose which eye you will use), About, and Goggles Reset.
1/ Select the pool length
To start the swimming session I had to select the Swim menu by pressing on the front button (with right eye use) – the other option is interval – and I selected 25 yards which is the length of the Charlie Sava pool in San Francisco where I tested the device.
2/ Select lap or intervals swimming
Then Form offers the choice between lap swim and intervals swim. Intervals swimming is for more advanced swimmers who train regularly, with a team and a coach who structures sessions with sets. I selected the lap swimming option.
3/ Start the session
Finally, the display asks you to press the front button to start the session, and the device starts monitoring your swim.
The whole process was done within minutes, and I was ready to go.
Viewing experience during swimming, turn detection and resting (Great)
Viewing experience – great:
No fog!: As promised by Form, no fog formed on my goggles during my 32 minutes in the water, and the viewing experience was great. Believe me, I have worn many swimming goggles and diving masks where fog formed quickly and it is beyond annoying – I would pay extra for that feature.
Perfect view of the metrics and the environment: I could perfectly read the data and see everything underwater without any distraction. The photo above provides a good idea of how you view the metrics underwater when wearing the Form.
Since I selected the split time option, I could see the time of my last lap at the bottom of the screen while swimming and the total time spent in the water at the top.At each turn, I could discover the duration of the lap I just completed, and that made the experience uber enjoyable. That was a huge motivation to do better each time or to pace myself and find my optimum cruising speed to swim a longer set.
Turn detection – good: as I am not a competitive swimmer anymore (since childhood), I do not need and do not like to execute the proper vertical turns, as it fills my nose with water. My turns are performed horizontally underwater when I touch the wall with my hand. Not knowing if the system is designed to detect such turning style, I tried slightly different motions. Most of the time, turns were detected, except three times when I turned too slowly. During my lap swim, I was with a majority of swimmers who were not too advanced and who turned just like I did, except for a handful of them.
I am glad that the system can work for them most of the time.
Resting screen – great: the resting screen automatically appears when the system senses you have stopped, and it is almost instantaneous.
I love the resting screen since it shows you exactly how much time you rest, and for instance, the calories burned (one of my choices) and other metrics displayed one after the other. Seeing the calorie count would push me to continue swimming if I know I want to burn more during a session.
Stroke type detection – great: during swimming the stroke type is not displayed, you can check that in the mobile app after your training. From the stats I read, what was recorded in my swim was accurate for the three strokes I swam (breast, free style arms only and backstroke). (See the app screen shot in the Form aap paragraph down below)
Accuracy: I could not really test the accuracy of the speed/distance data collected during my swim, I know that the three times the headset did not detect my turn, it skipped to display my last lap timing, keep the previous one on screen, and the data was probably not saved in my swim dashboard in the application.
Form Swim App – sync and check all your stats after swimming
Back at the house, I synced the it took only a few seconds. In your profile, you can check your swims, and when you click on your last one, you can see all the stats including the SWOLF, an efficiency measurement used by swimmers.
Additionally, you can follow other swimmers using Form and compete with them.
(see screen shots)
The application lets you connect with third party services such as Strava, Garmin, and TrainingPeaks.
The battery life is estimated at 16 hours of swim time by the manufacturer, and I could not test the battery drainage rate with continuous usage since I used Form only for one swim. The device was left ON after my swim until the next day, the battery was exhausted, and I could test the charging time.
Charging time: it took 15 minutes to get to 42% and 1 hour 10 minutes to charge to 92%. The charging is not linear (2.8% in the first 15 minutes, to 0.78% per min in the last 20 minutes of charging)
Overall the experience was great, and I loved to see my timing in real- time. At $199, Form is probably better suited for athletes and advanced swimmers. Casual lap swimmers who exercise mostly to stay in shape could instead use any top waterproof smartwatches that automatically detects swimming. Being a casual swimmer, I would prefer to use the Form goggles since I have to wear goggles anyway and I would not bother to check my watch for stats each time I rest – using a smartwatch in addition to Form can be useful for users who really want to record their heart rate during workouts. The lifeguard on duty tried it for a few seconds at the pool side, and she loved it at first sight until I told her the price.