Review: experience the future of swimming with FORM Swim Goggles
FORM Swim Goggles
- Look and feel like the traditional thing
- Simple to use see-through display
- HR monitor (separate purchase) works well
- Great at detecting type of stroke
- Excellent battery life
- Lap detection relies on you being a decent swimmer
- Limited editing function in app
Water resistance has become a standard feature of fitness trackers and smartwatches. While many of these gadgets monitor swimming, they all have one thing in common – they work from your wrist. While this might be fine for running, golf or tennis, it is not the ideal location if you want to track your swim session in real-time.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
Sports technology company FORM wants to solve this problem by giving swimmers a much less intrusive way of receiving instant feedback. So they came up with the idea of making swim goggles smart.
According to FORM founder and CEO Dan Eisenhard, the idea for the product came many years ago. But it is only now that advancements in technology have made this possible in a cost effective way. His previous venture was Recon Instruments, makers of augmented-reality eyewear for cycling and other sports. The outfit was acquired by Intel in 2015 but ultimately scrapped due to the tech giant’s retreat from the wearables game. FORM now employs many people that were part of the original company.
I’ve been tracking my swim sessions with FORM Swim Goggles for the past few weeks. How well do they work? Read on to find out.
The goggles arrive in a box along with a proprietary charger, five nose bridge sizes and a ventilated carrying case with a zip closure so you can tuck away all the gear. Everything is built from high-grade materials and has a premium look about it.
The first thing you’ll notice is that FORM Swim Goggles look and feel like the traditional thing. Which is what you want. The big difference, though, is that once you switch them on you are able to see a yellow dot-matrix display that projects into your line of sight. The tech works by implementing waveguide technology where the numbers appear to be floating in front of you and are constantly in focus.
Those of us that have tried on cheap pairs of swimming glasses know of fog related struggles and water leaking into the enclosure. This is not a problem you’ll have with FORM. The goggles have a permanent, chemical-resistant anti-fog coating while the contoured eye seals do a great job at keeping water at bay. You can swap around between the different nose bridge sizes to ensure a watertight seal. I was lucky as the one that came by default did a perfect job. An adjustable silicone strap is there to help hold everything in place.
The display is easy to read and takes almost no time to get used to. However, I was so intrigued at the outset with the numbers, it did impair my spatial awareness causing a near-collision with a fellow swimmer! Thankfully the lane-drifting lasted no more than 10 minutes. It is incredible just how quickly we adjust to advances in technology. Things that might seem the stuff of science fiction yesterday become normal today.
The goggles are totally self-sufficient so don’t need a smartphone to track your swim session. You power them on with one of two physical buttons on the side. The other button is used to navigate the menus.
The smart display can be worn over either eye thanks to a symmetrical design. It defaults to the right eye but once you flip the googles over simply change the display rotation. This can be done via the accompanying smartphone app or the goggles themselves.
The smarts which include an accelerometer, gyroscope and a miniaturized on-board computer are housed in a small black box on one of the sides. While this does add a little bulk, it does not stand out in any way. Most people in the pool will fail to notice you are wearing high tech gear on your head. This is an important selling point as I certainly did not want to become the object of attention while trying to work out. Everything is water-resistant down to 32 feet.
As of a few weeks ago, FORM also comes with a small plastic pod that can be attached to the straps. This is to hold the Polar OH1 or OH1+optical heart rate monitor (purchased separately) for tracking your ticker in the pool. I’ve tested the glasses with the Polar OH1+ heart rate monitor.
Round in design the heart rate monitor slips nicely into the enclosure. It has a separate on/off button to the glasses and you’ll need to make sure you put it in the right way around. The green light should be against your temple when everything is in place.
The new functionality allows swimmers to view real-time data on beats per minute and zones in their line of sight, throughout their swim. The info communicates wirelessly with the Polar heart rate monitors. All in all a very useful addition which helps to make FORM Swim Goggles a complete package. The company says it has been working with Polar on the heart rate tracking feature since the fall of 2018.
The small black box on the right-hand side also houses the battery which can keep the thing going for up to 16 hours. This ensures you will not be charging FORM goggles very often. There’s a proprietary cable that is used for refueling. It slots into a USB port on one end, and magnetically attaches to the pins on the side of the enclosure at the other end.
It is clear FORM set out with a goal of making using the goggles as simple as possible. And they’ve done a great job. The only thing you need to remember is to bring them with you and make sure there’s enough juice in the battery.
To use the thing, simply switch the googles on by taping the FRONT physical button. If you have a heart rate monitor it might be a good idea to power it on beforehand so that it pairs quickly and you position it appropriately. This typically takes no more than a few seconds.
You then have the option of choosing between Swim and Settings. Settings allows you to tweak brightness, display orientation, accessories and more.
Choose Swim and you’ll be presented with an option to enter the pool size (25m, 25y, 50m, set custom, unknown) and decide between Lap Swim and Intervals. You’ll probably be using Lap Swim most of the time. The navigation works well and the two physical buttons make it easy to find your way around the menus, even if your hands are wet. This is important as you’ll typically be doing all of this in the pool.
If you’ve set up your heart rate monitor, FORM will inform you that it is connected and you’ll see your heart rate displayed in your line of vision. This is a good time to make sure the readings are correct. If not you might need to make adjustments to the way the heart rate sensor is positioned against your head. I failed to do this in one session and the numbers looked out of whack. So it’s a good idea to take a few seconds to make sure everything is nice and snug.
Then simply press the FRONT physical button to start your session. The auto-tracking will kick in when the accelerometer and gyroscope sense you are moving. After a couple of seconds, the timer retroactively compensates. From that point on there’s nothing for you to do but swim. Turns and rests are detected by the goggles, and in Intervals mode the sets are automatic.
A wealth of info can be viewed in real-time. This changes depending on whether you’re swimming, turning or resting. The following image is a pretty accurate representation of what you see in front of you.
Users can choose between a number of display options and about a dozen different metrics. This includes time, heart rate (with the Polar OH1/OH1+), split time, stroke rate, stroke count, distance per stroke and more. A combination of two can be seen at any time. For interval training the timer at the top of the screen shows the duration of the current interval.
The other option is to switch off the display. With this you won’t see any info while you are swimming, only when you are making a turn or stopping to rest.
Heart rate zone information is determined automatically using the standard formula: 220-your age=max HR for men and 226-your age=max HR for women. However you can manually change your max HR which will then populate the zone fields with revised figures.
Rather impressively, FORM Swim Goggles will also figure out the type of stroke. And this is something that works extremely well. In my experience the gizmo was correct 100% of the time.
However, the same can not be said of turns and rest periods. The lap detection seems a bit too sensitive.
While I would not consider myself a great swimmer, I am fairly decent. But at times the googles would mark an end to a length prematurely and start the rest timer. This is because I may have slowed down during that particular length due to fatigue. So while the number of lengths was (for the most part) correct in the end, my speed would be calculated as such faster for some of them (coupled with a longer rest period). It did not happen too often, but it did happen once in a while. Out of 10-15 lengths, in my experience one ended up being slightly skewed.
I don’t think this would be a problem for intermediate and advanced swimmers but it might present an issue for average quality ones. FORM says it is working on resolving this so hopefully the issue will be ironed out with future software updates. But those who spend lots of time in the pool will probably not be affected. Unless, of course, a weaker swimmer crosses their path in a crowded pool and they are forced to slow down. Or they turn their head to look behind.
When you’re done with the swim, simply press one of the buttons on the side. This will pause your session. Then select save and quit. The next time you open the FORM app, the data will be ported over to your smartphone.
The app does a pretty good job at presenting info on your sessions. Your latest swim will appear at the top of the Feed along with a summary. Click on this for more details. You’ll be able to see time, distance all broken down by lengths. This can be put into a list or table. Those with a heart rate monitor are also able to view their heart rate through the session, as well as zone information.
Other info that can be seen includes stroke information, SWOLF Score and much much more. You can also set weekly goals for distance, time, or calories.
The feed allows you to share information on your swim for bragging rights, follow your friends at other clubs, edit the swim and delete it. Unfortunately the Edit option is very limited at the moment and does not allow you to change much of the data. It would have been nice to be able to amend some of those problematic lengths.
Other functionality worth mentioning is the ability to link up to Garmin Connect, Strava and the Apple Health app and TrainingPeaks. I tested the first of these and found that it syncs up nicely.
FORM has managed to transform a novel idea into a great product. Swimmers are finally able to train the way runners and cyclists do.
It is amazing to have instant feedback in the pool. No more losing track of where you are during the session or manually counting laps. The see-through augmented reality display shows a wealth of information in real time. There is also an option to incorporate a heart rate monitor, and I would suggest anyone who decides to purchase the googles goes that extra step.
The companion app is also really solid. The data is presented in a clear way, and there are lots of deep metrics to sink your teeth into.
FORM Swim Goggles
Just as important, FORM Swim Goggles are very comfortable. They are built of premium materials which feel robust enough to withstand abuse over time. And because they look like a standard pair of swim goggles, you will not get double-takes from others in the pool or the lifeguard.
All things considered, FORM Swim Goggles are a great concept which works well. An unobtrusive, see-through experience that is many times more convenient than any swim watch.
They retail for $199 on the company’s website (check price on Amazon) so casual swimmers might think twice about buying them. But intermediate, advanced swimmers and those who like to spend lots of time in the pool will appreciate one of the best swim tracking device out there.
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