Dan Eisenhardt is the founder and CEO of FORM, inventor of swim goggles with a see-through augmented-reality display that delivers performance metrics in real time.
We’ve been testing FORM swim goggles ahead of their general release on 7 August – and we’re really impressed. Fitted with a small, onboard computer, FORM goggles display metrics such as pace, stroke rate, length count and so on, in front of your eyes, in real-time, as you’re swimming. For training in the pool, it’s an entirely new experience. We caught up with company founder Dan Eisenhardt, a tech entrepreneur and former international swimmer, to find out more.
When did you first realise that you could develop the technology to create the FORM goggles?
Towards the end of 2014, while still at Recon [Dan’s previous business], I began to feel the main challenges of machine learning, miniaturization and see-through optics in water could be overcome at a decent price point.
How did you fund the development process?
In the beginning it was funded out of my own pocket. Then after we had our first prototype I raised funding from angel investors. To date over $8M USD in total.
During the development process, did you ever have times when you doubted you would be able to achieve what you wanted?
Yes! Many times. This is normal and part of the paranoia that fuels any good disruptive technology. It's really hard to pull off. There are so many moving parts and it's not like you can just copy what others have done. Everything is new.
We’re really impressed by the accuracy of the stroke detection, counting and how Form automatically detects if you’re doing a “set” – has what FORM can do, and how well it does it, matched your expectations?
I swim with these goggles many times a week and have been for almost a year now. So I've been able to personally experience, as a former competitive swimmer, the progression from prototype to product. I am not only impressed by what I see but in fact blown away. The goggles have far exceeded my expectations in all aspects. The goggles fit better than any goggles I've ever used. The display is brighter and crisper than I imagined was possible. The battery life is twice as long as I'd spec'ed - mostly because I didn't think it was possible to get 16 hours out of it. There are days when I have to pinch myself in the arm because it's so surreal that I am actually swimming with a heads up display in my goggles where I can track all my metrics in real time while everyone else in the pool are just plodding along with their normal low tech goggles. I am often thinking "if only they knew what they're missing out on". But then I remember that they won't need to miss out for long. This product is meant for them.
Is there anything else you would have liked, but haven’t (yet) been able to develop?
I believe there are many more unique experiences we can deliver with this product and technology once the power of this completely new user interface (UI) has been realised. But we're not going to make any premature assumptions about what features users will want next. We're going to wait and listen.
What was the biggest technical obstacle you faced and how did you solve it?
With engineering, it’s never just one thing because you’re working with a matrix and there are always trade-offs, but we set ourselves certain rules:
- The display mustn’t be obtrusive
- We had to achieve a retail price of USD195
- We insisted on a true augmented reality experience where the display floats in front of you
- It needs to look and wear like a normal pair of goggles
- We wanted a minimum battery life of 10 hours.
The two really hard problems we had to solve were the machine learning to enable the goggles to detect and understand how a swimmer moves and we had to develop our own wave guide to make the display work underwater.
What plans do you have for future developments?
I can't speak to our roadmap. But what I can say is that we're going to make sure swimmers of all levels hear about us and understand exactly why we're so excited about this revolutionary new product. People deserve to give it a chance and see for themselves how this new real time UI can change the game for them in the pool. It's really quite remarkable.
What is the anticipated working life of the goggles?
Regular goggles often start deteriorating (especially the anti-fog) in a matter of days or weeks and this is something we’ve worked hard to overcome with premium materials. For example, we use a permanent, chemical resistant anti-fog treatment in the lenses and FDA-certified silicone seals, and ship all our goggles with a limited 1-year warranty.
Are you working with a distributor in the UK? What’s the easiest way for UK-based swimmers to get their hands on your goggles?
Initially we're only selling from our website www.formswim.com but we do ship globally incl. UK.