Former Olympian and personal trainer Julia Russell tries out a pair of new AR swimmers goggles from FORM.
Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY
One summer weekend, I was granted two-day access to a nearby resort-style fitness facility with a deluxe indoor pool. So I went for a swim – while connected, of course.
Before leaving my apartment, I grabbed my iPhone (selfie or it didn’t happen), packed a pair of swimming trunks, and headed toward the door before realizing, “I forgot to charge my goggles.”
Yes, charge them – the same way you would your smartphone or your smartwatch. FORM, developed by a Vancouver-based startup, is what happens when your typical pair of swim goggles receive a total 2.0 upgrade. The water-friendly gadget is packed with hyped up tech like machine learning, augmented reality and real-time performance metrics.
I wanted to find out if the nifty eyewear from the future would live up to the hype and the results were, well, interesting.
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As a person who’s always connected and who doesn’t enjoy fitness without a way to track my metrics, I hoped these goggles would make lengthy swim sessions less lonely and boring. While my Apple Watch does a perfectly fine job with providing detailed dive metrics, it’s tough and awkward to peer at your wrist while swimming.
Also, it’s difficult for companies to seamlessly integrate augmented reality into workouts without bulky headsets, so I was skeptical.
How does FORM work?
When you put on the goggles, you’re supposed to see tiny lime green letters floating in your line of sight. The company says it uses “waveguide technology,” whatever that means, to make sure you can focus.
You use two tiny buttons on the right side of the goggle to adjust settings like brightness and pool length. The device has about 16 hours of battery life.
What was it like?
It seems like FORM got the formula right.
At first glance, I thought the digital renderings looked cheap. But as I began swimming, the whole experience felt much more premium. It was dreamy to see little numbers unobtrusively count my calories burned and laps swum no matter where I looked.
Visually, I felt sort of like an aquatic robot prototype or something.
I ran my Apple Watch Series 4 in Pool Swim workout mode while I trying out FORM just to compare the two. Both the smartwatch and smart goggles reflected the same number of calories burned.
However, FORM picked up the moment I began swimming, and the metrics were faster to respond to my rests than my Apple Watch. I’m not sure why, but the goggles didn’t even fog up or let water in.
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While attempting to connect the gadget with the smartphone app, I had a few connection issues, which happens occasionally when pairing devices via Bluetooth. Eventually, everything paired fine and the app categorized my swims.
Do you need AR goggles?
Overall, swimming with FORM felt special. But then again, I was in a luxurious water club home to both Olympics swimmers, one-percenters and a few ordinary people like myself.
Still, the goggles felt like something new, while remaining familiar.
Does everyone need a pair of $199 augmented reality goggles? No, unless you are a competitive athlete or just really serious about tracking your swims down to the millisecond.
Are they nice to have? Absolutely. So if you want a more purposeful or engaging experience while swimming, then maybe give them a go.
Just don’t forget to charge them.
Follow Dalvin Brown on Twitter: @Dalvin_Brown
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