Afterguard, the world’s first heads-up display for sailors


Sailing has always been about cutting edge precision – from carefully plotted maps, to handcrafted compasses and sextants. And now they have the latest and greatest in instant data – a Heads Up Display, popularised by the Terminator in the saw way that Minority Report made developers fall in love with gesture-based interfaces.

Wearables are very much the new battleground for innovative technology – although it remains to be seen whether they end up triumphing like tablets or crashing and burning like netbooks. You might be familiarwith the Recon Jet – a HUD for general sports performance. The Jet pairs with a smartphone and provides all sorts of useful performance metrics – speed, distance, elevation and more and connects with heart rate monitors, cadence sensors and all sorts. The Afterguard HUD is a stock Recon Jet with custom sailing software designed by Afterguard.

The Afterguard HUD is definitely not a fashion item but it helps that it doesn’t look quite as ridiculous as Google Glass. The system does seem a little bit bulky but needs to be robust for intense performance sport conditions. However, weighing in at only 60 grams they aren’t particularly heavy. They also promise 4-6 hours of battery life and the ability to swap batteries, so it’s a durable system, with the challenges of intense competition very much foregrounded in their design.

The units feature polarised lenses, a high resolution display (with IR gaze detection), an HD camera with microphone and speaker and an optical touchpad that works in rain, snow, sleet and sun, with or without gloves. The dual core CPU packs bluetooth, Wifi, ANT+ and GPO with an onboard gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer, altimeter and thermometers. That’s a pretty serious amount of tech to ram into some eyewear.

I’m not a sailor, but even I know that racing on the high seas is insanely technical, and that competitions can be won or lost similar on who had the best data, quickest and can react to it fastest – much like market trading. And Afterguard take competition serious – the tech inside the HUD was last seen in the America’s Cup, where the cream of the sailing world battle it out.

Ross Macdonald, two time Olympic medallist in sailing said: “Heads-up Displays have only ever been seen before on-board America’s Cup boats. So often, the cutting-edge technology on these boats hasn’t made it to other race classes. The Afterguard system is one of those rare occasions when it has.”

The Afterguard has a Central Communications Unit that syncs with your boat’s onboard instruments and wirelessly streams that data to the crew’s HUDs (and it claims to work with any system on any boat, needing nothing more than a screwdriver to mount). This data is then enhanced by the onboard sensors, giving each crew member at-a-glance information for snap judgements.

Check out the video here:

The Afterguard displays a range of metrics to the crew, such as speed, wind angle, heel, depth and polar targets. And the system is smart enough to know which crew member needs to know what, and when – helping you sail as one.

But it’s not just raw performance data – there’s also sound tactical advice. Virtual Tactician tracks the direction you are looking in and helps when you are trying to clear a boat – way more advanced than using lines marked on a deck or a compass. You can tell at a glance if you competition is ahead and if there is room to cross.

The full Afterguard system is available for $1899 for the month of April before increasing to $2499.

What caught our eye at CES 2012 – Part 1

Having recovered from our jet-lag and sifted through the two dozen or so USB press kits we picked up, we can now present you with part one of our round-up of the gadgets and gizmos that caught our eye at this year’s CES.

Eers Custom Earphones

Developed by Canadian firm Sonomax, ‘eers’ are the “first earphones in the world that you buy off the shelf and custom-fit to your own ears, in 4 minutes.” Roughly speaking, the product works by putting the fitting mechanism on your head (see picture) and then two types of silicone flow down into a membrane and into your ear. You don’t get any silicone in your ear of course, as it’s contained inside the membrane.

After a few minutes the silicone sets and you remove the fitting device to, hopefully, find a perfectly cast set of earphones – custom moulded to fit your ear. The product is expected to be on sale in the UK in the 2nd half (update: see below) of 2012 and the current retail price for the US is $199 for the single driver headphone and $299 for the twin driver (better sound quality) version. To find out more about eers, visit

Update on Jan 26: Eers are now available direct from Sonomax UK on this page, current price £199+shipping

Sony Tablet P

The next product that caught our attention, but perhaps not for the right reasons, was the Sony Tablet P. Our initial reaction was that it looked like a giant, silver, version of the popular Nintendo Donkey Kong handheld game from yesteryear! Nevertheless we decided to persevere and had a quick hands-on go the intriguing looking clamshell tablet.

The idea is that you can easily slip this tablet in to your handbag, backpack or even jacket pocket – although from our experience you’d need a pretty big jacket for people not to notice the bulge! The Tablet P is 18cm long and 15.8cm wide when fully opened. It weighs 370g and sports two 5.5″ TruBlack touch screens. The model on display is supplied in conjunction with AT&T and enables the ‘P’ to use 3G when on the move.

Alongside Sony’s more conventional ‘S’ tablet and their increasingly powerful XPERIA smartphones, we couldn’t really work out who the ‘P’ was aimed at. The form factor was quite bulky and the sizeable gap between the two screens can make for awkward reading of long pages (see our photo for an example of a split mid paragraph).

While the official press material from Sony states that pricing and availability is ‘TBD’, we found the Tablet P already for sale (at £499) on the Sony UK web site. Given this relatively high price (the iPad 2 starts from £399) we’ll be surprised if this becomes a hit product for Sony.

Penclic Mouse

Penclic, a Swedish based company, have been championing the idea of a pen-shaped mouse since 2002. However this year’s CES saw them launching their new and improved R2 (wireless) and D2 (corded) versions. The Penclic is designed to provide a more natural working position and to combat health related issues associated with a traditional computer mouse, such as repetitive strain injury (RSI).

The Penclic is intended to feel and move like a pen and the mouse buttons are mounted where you grip with your forefinger and thumb. From our quick test the product performed well, although we were initially a little confused about which part made the cursor move. The answer is that you move the whole unit, rather than just the ball/socket mechanism!

The R2 and D2 are already available via the Amazon Marketplace, priced at £59.99 and £49.99 respectively. Update: Check out our Penclic R2 unboxing video

Audi’s triple heads-up display

Over at the predictably stylish (and extremely bright!) Audi stand, they had a demo of prototype heads-up display. Audi’s HUD stood out from existing displays because it featured three ‘projections’, one directly in front of the driver, one in the centre and one for the passenger.

The driver’s HUD showed navigational arrows which can obviously be used in place of a traditional sat-nav unit. The centre screen was showing more details about the route and end destination. Meanwhile, the passenger screen (which is invisible to the driver), can be used to watch TV, etc. All of the screens are gesture controlled.

In a ‘real life’ demo, the guy from Audi showed us an example of an incoming video phone call. This was displayed on the centre screen as a static photo and the name of the caller, but the passenger could drag this across to their screen to view the video call – while the driver could concentrate on, er, …driving!

Our CES 2012 coverage continues…