Moneyball in the Water: A Look at the New FORM Smart Swim 2 Goggles

A critical aspect of sports is the ability to innovate. And sometimes, something comes along that so fundamentally changes the game, there’s no going back. Recently, I got a look at the new FORM Smart Swim 2 goggles—and from what I’ve seen so far, it does just that.

In the FORM Smart Swim 2 goggles (available for purchase worldwide starting April 2nd) you’ll find several transformative additions, including an Integrated Heart Rate Monitor and SwimStraight technology for open water.

But before we provide details on them, as well as the expanded features in HeadCoach arriving soon, it’s important to remember what FORM goggles have already done. The closest comparable, in my mind, is the way the Oakland Athletics utilized sabermetrics to revolutionize baseball, both in training and for in-game decisions. So, in the spirit of Moneyball, I’ve used lines from the film to help emphasize why the “beautiful game” in the water just became even more so.

While I hope this brings creativity (and maybe even a laugh or two), the lingering thought next time you open your gear bag—or find yourself in the middle of a long set—is what you want your swim experience to be. Simply stated, there’s too much time—and too much effort—put into swimming to not find value in numbers right in front of us.

“If he's a good hitter, why doesn't he hit good?”

Prior to FORM’s entry into the market, the ability to access multisport data real-time was readily available, albeit on the bike and the run. Quick, easy glances at wearables or external devices made tracking goals, monitoring output, and adjusting effort along the way convenient. And convenience shaped best practices, and then competitive expectations.

Certainly, some methods make real-time feedback available for the swim. But often with sacrifice. Especially in a race. For example, a few missed strokes to check a wristwatch. Even then, those intermittent pauses provide brief glimpses into performance. For most athletes, there is a risk calculus of how long to look at the data, then how to apply it until the next interval (if they even stopped to check).

But then something happened. FORM goggles provided a method to see instantaneous data through an Augmented Reality display, using Waveguide optics technology. For societies constantly connected to screens, placing numbers in the view path of the swimmer was natural. And just like that, swimmers found ways to trust the data.

Between races, the companion FORM app allowed users to pre-set dashboards for pool and open water settings. This opened new possibilities for in-the-moment monitoring of distance, time, stroke rate, and more visually. For the busy athlete (who isn’t), the initial FORM smart goggles also made information easily consumable during a swim, empowering decision making. The supplemental library of +1,500 workouts and +45 structured training plans available to Premium users made swim sessions purposeful, regardless of whether swimming alone or sharing data with others. But, like all initial products, there was room to improve.

The introduction of HeadCoach provided the next round of ingenuity. In Moneyball, when General Manager Billy Beane asks newly hired Yale-graduate-turned-baseball strategist Peter Brand to see player evaluations, the conversation goes like this:

Billy Beane: I asked you to do three.
Peter Brand: Yeah.
Billy Beane: To evaluate three players.
Peter Brand: Yeah.
Billy Beane: How many you'd do?
Peter Brand: Forty-seven.
Billy Beane: Okay.
Peter Brand: Actually, fifty-one. I don't know why I lied just then.

HeadCoach felt a lot like that. The data we didn’t know we needed, until we did. And it came from an in-goggle motion sensor and machine learning technology.

For context, in a swim session, a user can pause the workout, turn HeadCoach on, and select a Skills mode technique to emphasize. Like sabermetrics in baseball, HeadCoach utilizes terminology that once understood makes swimming without it impossible (or nearly so). Whether Head Pitch (eye/chin angle when looking forward) or Head Roll (lateral head tilt when breathing), visual bars in the lens make developing (and maintaining) good habits sustainable.

However, insights reveal work to be done by most swimmers. And that, precisely, is where choice comes into play.

“You get on base, we win. You don't, we lose.”

This realization lays the foundation for the FORM Smart Swim 2 goggles. If knowledge is good, more is better.

Currently, HeadCoach provides personalized FORM scores for each area with explanations (and improvement videos) through In-App education and post-swim analysis. That means an athlete can see measurable progress over time.

It also means seeing where strengths are—and conversely, where there’s opportunity to improve. One area I’m still working on is Time-to-Neutral, or how long it takes to return into the water when inhaling. And what the numbers tell me is that I spend far too long looking to the side, ultimately disrupting my efficiency. Or in baseball terms, a constant pitch clock violation. Like, far too long.

HeadCoach will now expand to include auto-generated workouts tailored to a user’s skill level—and the free swim option will include HeadCoachprompts from real-time analysis. Members can also build custom workouts with HeadCoach insights.

Specific to the FORM Smart Swim 2, here’s what to expect.

The Integrated Heart Rate Monitor measures heart rate through a sensor built into the goggle frames at the temple. Where wrist watches or chest straps can be difficult to wear (or check while swimming), the FORM Smart Swim 2 goggles display heart rate in the top corner of the lens, accompanied by a heart icon.

The integrated heart rate technology provides more consistent heart rate readings than some other methods based on scientific observation, which is vital when aiming to swim within certain heart rate zones. Less variability in heart rate readings (ex. +/- 4 beats per minutes) means more accurate data. It also provides peace of mind (or a warning) when in the water, regardless of our emotional or sensory experience. It lets me know when I’m going out-too-hot. Or the opposite, when I think I’m pushing too hard, but my heart rate is within the range I want it.

Having data viewable creates line-of-sight into something most multisport athletes are blind to in the water. In a race, you can’t win it during a swim—but you certainly can lose it. Energy overexertion and lactic thresholds take their toll, similar to over-paying a baseball player relative to their actual production. Spend what you need to in the water, no more no less. Swim smart.

“This guy should cost $3 million a year. We can get him for $237,000.”

The other novel technology in the FORM Smart Swim 2 is SwimStraight, which uses a first-of-its-kind digital compass to display directional heading. Think of a compass with 0 through 360 degrees, shown horizontal when rotating either direction.

Here, the competitive advantage cannot be underscored. If an athlete knows that a buoy is located at 270 degrees when they sight heads-up, the need to re-sight could move to every 30 seconds rather than every few strokes. It also means that when glare impairs visibility during portions of a swim, relative confidence exists on bearing, via the augmented reality display.

I once attended a middle-distance race where the event started early in the morning (as they often do), only to be met with significant reflections from the rising sun. A professional triathlete even turned around completely mid-course, swimming to the incorrect point and cascading to a DNF.

Importantly, the FORM Smart Swim 2 goggles and all of its included features have been granted race approval by World Triathlon, USA Triathlon, the Professional Triathletes Organisation (PTO), and supertri. This list may continue to grow, so it’s recommended to check with a race organizer and/or the FORM website.

Where permitted, this technology creates a new dynamic in the water that we haven’t seen before—and one that will readily be used while others expend additional energy to swim longer, or less straight, to the same destination.

The FORM Smart Swim 2 goggles include an Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Magnetometer, and Barometer. To give SwimStraight a test, I did a brief open water swim (with wetsuit) at a nearby lake. It was frigid, but I was excited to experience something new.

To calibrate, the goggles ask a user to tilt their head in various directions. Once the start button is clicked, the digital compass appears. I sighted to a distance object, swam to it, then returned back to the shore (which was the opposite degree equivalent, understandably). I also tried SwimStraight in open water mode at my indoor pool for a shakeout swim, following a 15 mile long run. Similarly, I used the compass to sight swim blocks at the end of the pool, focusing on my own accuracy. It worked well, and throughout the warmer months, expect to provide a follow up article on my extended experience.

“We are card counters at the blackjack table and we're gonna turn the odds on the casino.”

The FORM Smart Swim 2 has a few additional items worth noting. Not only are these important as other competitors evaluate their offerings in the swim space, they are also important in anticipating what a swimmer needs, even if they can’t articulate it.

The tech pack on the side of FORM Smart Swim 2 goggles is 15% smaller than the prior version. The arms on the frame, which house the heart rate sensor, also provide a strong sense of stability for the attached straps.

For me, the new proprietary eyes seals are a substantial improvement over the prior iteration. They are intended to fit a wider variety of facial structures. In fact, there were times with the FORM Smart Swim 1 goggles that I cut sessions short or opted to use other non-smart pairs. Once I broke in that first generation, the experience became easier. In a way, I understood that goggles that could be worn on the left or right side (essentially, reversed) were different from traditional one-direction frames. So, I tempered my expectations on comfort eventually. However, the FORM Smart Swim 2 solves the relative discomfort I experienced from the outset—and my face is grateful.

“If you lose the last game of the season, nobody gives a shit.”

Technology is a tool. What we do with it, and how consistently we do, can make a significant impact. For many age group athletes, swimming is the least intuitive part of multisport. Trust me, I am one of them. At my first sprint triathlon several years ago (indoors), I swam 400 yards. In twelve minutes. Doing the breaststroke. When innovations come to the market that help swimmers of all levels, it’s something that should not be taken lightly. And when something occurs that changes the way a sport is done, like power meters and aero bars, it’s something to take notice of. Especially where water is involved.

Here at the start of another season, I’m hopeful that the results will continue to follow.

FORM Smart Swim 2 has a current MSRP of $249.00/£229.00/€249.00. Notable change on pricing: you no longer receive 12 months of FORM Premium with your purchase. Current purchases now include a free two-month trial of FORM Premium, which includes access workouts, training plans, HeadCoach, TrainingPeaks workout imports and SwimStraight. (Standard open-water mode and real-time pool metrics remain unlocked whether or not you subscribe.)

After your trial ends, continued access to Premium Features costs $15/£13/€15 a month or $99/£84/€99 annually.