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

afterguard

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.

Top 5 Cycling Gadgets

Cycling-Gadgets

Cycling has been in the news a lot lately, with the trialling of Dutch-style segregated roundabouts appearing alongside less positive stories about fatal road accidents. However, technology is playing a big part in improving the lives of Britain’s cyclists, and this list of gadgets and apps will assist with everything from safety and maintenance through to fitness and entertainment.

ProNav

1. Safety

Road safety has historically been a major problem for cyclists, and HGVs have been involved in over 50 per cent of cycling deaths since 2010, despite only making up around four per cent of our road traffic. Now, a brand new device called Cycle Alert aims to eliminate the blind spots that can precede collisions with lorries and trucks. This ingenious system sends direct warnings to the drivers of nearby HGVs, alerting them to the presence of any bicycle within two metres. This is achieved by a unit (carried on either the bike or cyclist) communicating with sensors in the lorry cab, immediately triggering a warning alarm and flashing light.

Cost: TBC. Available from nationwide retailers and cyclealert.com later this year.

2. Navigation

Garmin was the first company to launch GPS into the cycling market, and their Edge 510/810 devices incorporate numerous cycle-friendly features. Alongside the usual GPS positioning and speed displays, these compact systems can display gradients, elevations, heart rates and even lap times. Best of all, it’s possible to share the details of your journey in real time with friends and family members, through the Garmin Connect smartphone app. Waterproof, glove-friendly and with a 17-hour battery life, these are among the best GPS devices on the market for cyclists.

Cost: Upwards of £250. Available from Amazon.

Basis-Band

3. Fitness

Cycling is one of the best ways to improve your fitness, but it can be hard to keep tabs on your progress and health. Enter Basis Band, an American device worn on the wrist that acts as a personal cardiologist and fitness instructor. It calculates numerous metrics including heart rate, temperature and galvanic skin response, before distributing this information via cloud technology to a computer program, where users can track everything from calorific output to how long they sleep at night.

Cost: $199. Available from www.mybasis.com

Westone-R4

4. Entertainment

There are countless varieties of portable headphones in the market today, and many people will already have a preferred brand. However, cyclists with deep pockets and no brand loyalties might wish to consider the Westone 4 R-Series of earphones, whose name promises Ultra High-Performance Stereo sound. Sure enough, clever engineering has created impressive ergonomics, while removable cables can be replaced in the event of damage occurring. These in-ear speakers use four-driver systems, based on half a century’s research and innovation, and provide a tolerance of +/- 2dB between earpieces.

Cost: £389.99. Available from The Headphone Company

5. Maintenance

Every keen cyclist will be able to tell tales of mechanical issues and breakdowns, and many of us struggle with even basic repairs like reattaching a slipped chain. Enter the Bike Repair app, which is downloadable onto any Android or iOS device, and offers step-by-step solutions to common problems encountered by cyclists. With over 80 written features and 64 photo guides, this should be enough to resolve anything short of a double puncture.

Cost: £2.49 from iOS, or £1.93 from Android. Available from The Bike Repair App

Image courtesy of @each1teach1

TomTom’s satnav “Traffic Manifesto”

TomTom has announced a philanthropic “Traffic Manifesto”, which explains Europe’s problem with congestion (we may have noticed that on our own) and gives some viable – and some free – solutions.

The core philosophy behind the manifesto is that if drivers are better informed about congestion issues, they’ll be better able to avoid it. And the best way to do that? Subscribe to TomTom’s Traffic HD 4.0 service.

TomTom-traffic-HD

The new 4.0 version of the pay-per-month service has some particularly impressive stats behind it, too. It’s more accurate than the last edition, reduces the average journey time by 15% and reports 200% more rush-hour traffic jams than ever before. This means it’ll take just two minutes for any traffic accumulation to be reported to near-by drivers.

Aside from just wanting to sell more of their product, TomTom CEO Harold Goddijn was keen to express how the company wished to “to do our bit for society, and our customers. We’re embarking on this mission because we love driving and hate traffic.” An understandable claim, given that the morning rush our now “lasts two and a half to three hours” on major roads.

According to his research, if just 10% of TomTom’s 45 million users subscribed to the service, journey times in traffic would be down 5% for every road user – not just TomTom owners.

While impressive, these gains are still a long way away – currently only one million people (around 2%) of TomTom users are subscripted to Traffic HD.

To speed the process, and the rest of us, along, the manifesto outlines plans to give free traffic data to radio stations and TV channels, as well as to work with local road planning authorities to create traffic-free roads. They’re also updating current Traffic HD users to the latest version free-of-charge.

It seems that, unable to compete financially with free satellite navigation software from Google and Nokia, TomTom is repositioning itself as a premium information service. Will it work? I hope so – I want 5% of my journey-time back, please.