High tech heads-up display for your goggles
STORY SO FAR
The inspiration for SwimAR originally came whilst swim training for a triathlon in 2010. Borne out of a desperate need for real-time data in the pool, SwimAR was the idea of creative engineer, Julian Swan.
FILLING THE TECH GAP FOR SWIMMERS
Frustrated by a lack of high-tech devices for his underwater training, he set about looking for a solution.
His bike computer, allowed him to race himself, based on previous times. His running watch enabled him to gauge an efficient pace and shaved minutes off his runs across the seasons. But in the pool, he had to stop training to check a watch and more importantly wasn't free to fully focus on his form as he was counting laps.
Julian soon became aware that swimming's a very technical sport and improvement wouldn't come through simply putting in the time and distance in the pool. He needed to improve his technique to impact speed and endurance, which he soon learnt was a challenging task if you are constantly keeping tabs on the number of laps in your head.
In 2015, after investigating a number of different technologies, Julian joined forces with industrial designer Mark Hester, and soon after they came across Sony SmartEyeglass which turned out to be the perfect solution.
Sony SmartEyeglass uses a holographic waveguide, with a high resolution display giving an incredibly high definition. It's very bright and translucent so it doesn’t block your view.
In 2016 Roger Gray and Clare Hester joined the team and in 2017 we finally had a hydrodynamic sealed case that swimmers could use with their own goggles, to get that realtime data feed-back they've been looking for all these years.
After years of tinkering with ideas and a few Factory Friday brainstorms, discovering the Sony technology made it possible for us to bring a swimmer live data, directly into their line of sight.
We had looked into a number of other AR (augmented reality) technologies, but until Sony developed it's SmartEyeglass, nothing came close to what we needed.
A RICHER EXPERIENCE
AR is not new, but is often relegated to the living room and the world of entertainment.
Here's a great example of it being used at the Opera to enhance the audience's understanding through translation.
PAPER PROTOTYPES OF THE DISPLAY
Our first design was to be for pool training, with open water displays planned for the second iteration. To design a useful display for the pool, we asked coaches, swimmers and triathletes what the most important data was for them when training, discovered how varied pool lengths are around the world and how different goals will impact how you use SwimAR.
This enabled us to design the software appropriately.
We wanted to develop the technology to give real-time insights to swimmers in pools and open water, that would improve both their performance and training experience.
We came up with an idea that we were able to miniaturise and could detect lap times, calculate split times and distance whilst sorting multiple streams of data as set by the user, enabling swimmers to focus on style and form.
The holographic technology, far superior to anything we'd seen before, displayed graphics with the brightness and see-through transmittance suited to pool and open water swimming.
The issues of eye-strain that caused so many problems for GoogleGlass and other pool training aids, were not an issue with this type of technology, so we pressed on.
We recruited swimmers and triathletes and printed simple block models of an early design, for them to test when training (attracting a few strange looks and questions).
They were evaluated for their appearance on the face (it looked bulky), comfort on the goggles (it rubbed the nose on some) and whether they caused any noticeable drag (surprisingly it didn’t).
DRY LAND TESTING
The first working prototype was tested at Innovate 2017 in November to a delighted audience of swimmers and triathletes:
After 110 hours of software programming and around 50 hours of 3D printing and prototype trials, our first waterproofed SwimAR was manufactured and we embarked on a period of pool testing it in London (February-March 2018).
We had a busy three days meeting people interested in SwimAR at London's Triathlon Show, February 2018 and a couple of amazing triathletes were able to try out the SwimAR prototype underwater in the pools at Excel.
It was a very useful time for us as a team and we are grateful for all the honest and encouraging feedback.
A NEW DESIGN
Taking on board the feedback from pool tests, we redesigned SwimAR giving it the slimmest profile possible whilst still allowing space to accommodate the technology.
We took SwimAR to the Wearable Technology Show, London, in March 2018, where we exhibited the new design (featured below). Visitors loved the working prototype and were delighted to see first hand the holographic display.
In July 2018 we were thrilled to reveal SwimAR was selected to join a cohort of 10 start-ups to join an exclusive programme, run by Digital Catapult.
As part of the programme, we participated in valuable masterclasses on preparing for investment, building scalable business models and routes to market.
Digital Catapult also provided technical and business mentorship, access to immersive production facilities and the opportunity to pitch our ideas at an investor showcase in September.
Rebecca Gregory-Clarke, lead technologist of Immersive at Digital Catapult, said: “The UK has great potential to lead the way and become the best place in the world to produce immersive applications. Many early-stage immersive companies have great concepts, but they need support to turn these into a commercial reality. Augmentor is alleviating this gap in the market.”
Below, Mark Hester, our CEO, features in the short film produced by Digital Catapult, at the Investor Showcase, September 2018.
Following feedback from swimmers earlier in the year, we realised that GPS needed to be integrated into the first version of SwimAR. By September 2018, we had reconfigured the electronics, to make this possible. This redesign also gives us scope to include important features like bluetooth functionality for downloading data wirelessly. Find out more about this development here.