Underwater Smart Goggles, Designed by Finis, Mean My Swimming Career Isn't Fini
SportTechie senior writer Joe Lemire was inspired to get back in the water by Finis Smart Goggles, which track workouts and offer peripheral real-time data while swimming.
On my good days, I am a decidedly mediocre swimmer: adequate speed, no endurance. I just can’t pace myself. In high school P.E. class, we went into the diving pool and were told to tuck ourselves into a ball, hold our breath for 10 seconds and see how close to the surface we stayed.
When my internal clock struck 10, I began paddling up. And up. And up and up and up. I must have been 12 feet deep in the 14-foot pool. I felt as triumphant as a humpback whale breaching the surface when I finally made it. The P.E. teacher had warned that there’s a sinker in every class, and I found my nautical calling as an anchor that day.
All of this is to say that swimming requires tremendous effort on my part. Proper coaching and technique would help, I’m sure, but for now I sprint laps with my energy-wasting form and bottom-dwelling body type.
This summer, I was offered a chance to try the new Finis Smart Goggle with a sensor that tracks workouts and offers a real-time display in a swimmer’s peripheral vision. My results were not pretty.
My first time in the pool, I swam 18 laps of a 25-yard public pool with an active time (7:49) that only barely eclipsed my rest time (6:34). I wasn’t able to focus my attention enough to see the display mid-stroke. But, while resting on the wall in between laps, it was nice to glance to my far left in the smart goggle and see how many laps I had completed (not many) and how much time I was resting (a lot).
For a novice like me, the best feature was the simple record of my workout—I never would have remembered how many laps I swam without the goggles—and that’s kind of the point.
Finis co-founder and CEO John Mix usually swims four times per week. Almost all of his lane neighbors are left to their own devices: no coach, no tracking device, just moving lane disks to count laps.
“I figured if we did nothing more than count the people’s laps accurately and give them splits, the adult swimmer and the adult triathlete would love it,” Mix says.
Usually aiming for a 100 laps and a 2,500-yard swim, Mix now no longer needs to count his own laps. “It allows me to escape more and have my workout for myself,” he says.
Finis welcomes partners to collaborate on new products, just as has been done recently with Aspiricx on the development of its Lanevision app. For the smart goggles, a fellow Bay Area company called Ciye approached Finis. Ciye’s CEO, Yuri Zhovnirovsky, had been VP of development for BAM Labs, which made sensors for smart beds before the company was acquired by Sleep Number. Ciye’s sensor automatically tracks not only distance, speed and time, but also identifies what stroke is being used.
Among the top users was Paralympian Mallory Weggemann, who was able to share her training data from Tokyo back to the U.S. because her coach wasn’t able to travel due to COVID restrictions. Weggemann returned home with two golds, one silver and two Paralympic records.
On the other end of the spectrum —and Mix prefaces this by saying, “this is a true story”— there was a girl from Walnut Creek who asked about an integration with Pokémon Go, which rewards users for activity. That is not in the plans for now but, as of earlier this month, Finis Smart Goggles did become compatible with Swim.com, the official workout platform of U.S. Masters Swimming. They are working on syncing up with Apple Health Kit, as well, and Mix hopes to include other metrics, such as heart rate, in the future.
From Weggemann to Pokémon Go users, Mix says his customer base loosely falls into thirds: kids 10 and under, competitive swimmers and adult fitness swimmers. He saw the Finis Smart Goggles as an option for the latter two demographics. “If we did it well enough and could actually build a bridge in between two of the groups,’’ he says, “you’re reaching 66% of your market.”
Other smart goggles have hit the market—Form and Vuzix, to name two—each with a different approach to displaying the real-time swim info. Finis deliberately opted for the lowest impact, with the screen only in the periphery rather than displayed in the primary field of vision through augmented reality.
In my newly suburban life with access to a town pool, I have ambitions of swimming more and learning to pace myself. If, or hopefully when, that happens, the Finis product seems like a good option for me. It’s certainly a step up from what many recreational swimmers do now with a watch.
“While resting on the wall in between laps, it was nice to glance to my far left in the smart goggle and see how many laps I had completed (not many) and how much time I was resting (a lot).”
“Either it’s tracking your entire swim start to finish and including all your rest time, or you’re pressing the button every time you start and stop,” says Clarke Dolliver, marketing manager at Finis. “The smart goggle knows when you’re swimming, it knows when you’re resting, and it takes it into account.”
And as I learned—from watching the resting-time counter keep ticking away—it can motivate you to swim some more.
I mean, in another minute. Still catching my breath.
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