Cyclists have Strava. Skiers have EpicMix. Even casual athletes have devices like Fuelband. Golf, on the other hand, is different. Chalk it up to the culture, the tradition, or the fairly small market of people who tee off with regularity, but golf has been fairly untouched by the advent of wearable technologies. Game Golf, a new technology that tracks your round and visualizes the results, is hoping to change that. Designed by Yves Béhar’s Fuseproject and backed by professional golfers Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood, the company launched an IndieGoGo campaign today.
What took so long? According to Béhar, it was a matter of both cultural and technological hurdles. "Golf is anchored in tradition," he tells Co.Design. "Technology has always been perceived as disruptive to the game." Traditionally, your caddy is responsible for noting your stats. The one area where technology has made inroads is in swing analysis, the perpetual obsession of pros. Yet, as Béhar points out, golfers are social creatures. "I come from a family of golfers," he says. "If you know the crowd, they’re fascinating. Constantly talking, recalling their games and analyzing certain moments."
Game is designed to supplement that behavior, and to socialize it on a broader scale. You wear the small red-and-black dongle on your belt, where a Bluetooth LE, a near-field communication device, a compass, an accelerometer, and a gyrometer track your progress. A set of club pins containing RFID tags attach to the butt of each club. As you tee off, you tap the dongle with the end of the club, and it notes where you are and what club you’re using and uploads your stats to the cloud via Bluetooth. By the time you’re done, you can see your full game visualized either on the iPhone app or website. The interface shows your strokes overlaid on a Google Earth map and tracks your performance using a particular club over time.
"The device generates a data point every half second," says Fuseproject’s Director of Digital and Brand Curt Collinsworth. "Visualizing that much data was really tough, and we wanted to make sure pros and amateurs alike could benefit from the analysis." Collinsworth’s team designed an interface that lets users choose between a map mode, a data viz mode (where you can "go to the clubhouse and look at your stats over a beer"), and a deep stats mode that drills down into particulars. Another big element of the UI is socialization. Game lets users compare themselves not only to friends and fellow club members but to pros using the technology. You can share a particularly awesome shot on Facebook, or you can comment on your friend’s terrible game. "It allows for sharing and analysis, and for all of the shit talking that happens on the golf course to become social," laughs Béhar.
Game is a completely different animal from Fuseproject’s Up by Jawbone wristband—one gamifies life, the other quantifies a game—but in a way, they both belong to an emerging genre of tech that, in Béhar’s words, lets us "quantify our passions." Fuseproject’s design venture model has given Béhar a vehicle to participate as both a designer and an entrepreneur. "That was the primary reason we created this business model six years ago," he explains. "Short-term engagements didn’t create the long-term opportunities for quality design. When you align design more closely with the outcomes of a business, it becomes more valuable to companies, and to consumers."
Head over to IndieGoGo to fund Game, which is aiming for a summer 2013 release.