New Open Water Swimming Device on Kickstarter

The IOLITE. A new open water swimming and triathlon GPS device. Image from the IOLITE Kickstarter campain page.
I stumbled across a new device for open water swimming on Facebook today.  The IOLITE is currently funding on Kickstarter and looks like it is being developed by a couple of guys here in Utah.

Basically, the IOLITE is a GPS device that also has a "heads up display" that attaches to your goggles.  The display helps you to swim on pace and in a straight line.  It looks like a pretty cool idea, and I'm sure that triathletes will be all over it.  But as I was watching their video, I asked myself "is this really necessary?"

I'm all for using GPS during training swims.  Unless you have a course that has been measured and marked, GPS is the only real way to know how far you went.  It's also nice to have some data about average speed, pace, etc.

The thing that the IOLITE adds that other devices don't have is the real-time display that attaches to your goggles.  The display can tell you if you are swimming off course and if you are on pace or not.  I kind of like the idea of having a visual indication of your pace for training, but I think the "guidance system" is unnecessary and will teach swimmers to rely on the device rather than learning proper skills and technique.

Swimming straight takes practice and requires that you learn to balance your stroke, breathe on both sides, and learn to sight, etc.  For many this doesn't come easy, and I can understand the temptation to buy a device that makes it easier.  What if the battery dies while you are swimming?  What if the display comes off of your goggles? What if your goggles get bumped or knocked off? I imagine swimmers spending more time fiddling with the device during a race than they would have saved by just learning to swim straight. Plus, you would still have to sight at some point to know when to turn.

The device has two modes: programmed course and freestyle. For the programmed course, you can use the software to input the exact course into the device and it will act kind of like a turn-by-turn GPS in your car. The IOLITE can hold up to 5 unique courses. If the course changes, the device also has a freestyle mode that uses algorithms to figure out which direction you are headed and keep you on a straight line.

What about if you are swimming where there are tides or currents? When I swam Alcatraz several years ago, I was aiming for the same spot the entire time and ended up swimming and "S" shape because of the tides. I could see the IOLITE freaking out the whole time that you were off course, when really, the the tides might push you right where you want to end up. On the other hand, it might "re-calibrate" your direction and send you way off course.

The IOLITE would be most useful for triathlon, since any marathon swimming organization would view the device as an "aid". I wonder if it will be legal for USAT races...

In general, I think it's a cool idea, but I'm just not sure how practical (or necessary) it is. Maybe it's just me. I'm sure there are a lot of swimmers and triathletes out there who would jump at the chance to buy one.

I have friends who will hate this idea, and other who will love it. What do you think?

Link to IOLITE website:

Link to Kickstarter campaign:


Gordon Gridley said...

I'm one that hates it. I like swimming toys that help you learn proper technique, or those that make you safer.

This toy won't make one safer. I guess if you get lost in fog then yeah, it would be nice to have something on your goggles to guide you where your eyes cannot. But c'mon, what moron is gonna go swimming by himself in the fog.

This thing will be right up the ally for many triathletes looking for the edge. Something to match their latest carbon fiber bike and beak helmet. If they let this thing allowable in races, my impression of triathlon as a sport will go down.

But to each their own I guess.

smilingldsgirl.com said...

It seems like something that might be more helpful in practice than racing.

smilingldsgirl.com said...

Sighting is extremely difficult for me because of my lazy eye. I can't focus on items well, so the device kind of appeals to me. It seems like it might make casual swimming more enjoyable.

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