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Heads up info for every sailor?

Apr 8, 2014

Courtesy Afterguard

If anyone needs "situational awareness" it's a fighter pilot. That's why fighter aircraft are equipped with heads-up displays (HUD). These units gather and project a wealth of data on a transparent screen in the front of the cockpit. Recently, America's Cup navigators have been equipped with heads up displays to assist them in making tactical decisions.

The sailing technology company Afterguard has now announced a HUD product for the bulk of racing sailors who are not part of an America's Cup effort. This HUD comes in the form of a Central Communications Unit (CCU) that pulls data from the boat's instruments, manipulates that data and then transmits it to the display unit or units. The display is a pair of special sunglasses. The sunglasses show boat racing data floating in the air in front of them so crew members don't have to look down at instruments.

The Performance Dashboard displays the relevant information to any given crew member, from the helmsman to the trimmer. Metrics include:

• Boat speed
• Speed over ground
• Wind angle (true and relative)
• Wind speed (true and relative)
• Polar targets
• Heel
• Depth

According to Afterguard, the feature called Virtual Tactician removes the guesswork associated with making a mark or clearing a boat. By tracking the user’s gaze and combining it with the system’s data the user will be able to make split second tactical decisions without relying on a hand bearing compass, lines marked on the deck or other basic means. The user will be able to look at another boat and gauge whether they are ahead and whether there is room to cross.

The full Afterguard system is available for $1,899 for the month of April before increasing to $2,499.

How long before we see a version for voyaging sailors? Might make standing night watches easier. You could read an ebook (or watch a movie) in the central part of the visual field while keeping nav or radar info available off in the corner for rapid checking your "tactical situation." The visual tracking feature might be used to keep tabs on whether the watchstander has fallen asleep. If he or she does, then an alarm can sound to wake them up! 

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