Updated 7th May 2023
Okay, so this article is a little bit off-piste for this publication, considering this is a health, well-being and future of work related magazine, but sailing is a personal hobby and passion of mine. So much so that I moved to an area surrounded by marinas, Hamble, UK, and for my Amercian readers, it's much like Annapolis, but on a bigger scale.
Plotting a chart of history
Over the years, companies like Garmin (household name), B&G, Raymarine, Simrad and Furuno (amongst others) have been manufacturing high end navigational electronics for boats of all sizes. With B&G a favourite amongst proper sailors, and Raymarine for everything else.
To fit out a smallish monohull sailboat with this type of kit, you’d be looking to spend around $10K to $25,000K for a full electrics and navigation pack with AIS, radar, chartplotter, auto-pilot, wind/depth/speed over ground sensor, plus central NMEA 2000 compliant computer with bus that sends and recieves data to the chartplotter screen(s).
That's a lot of poke $$.
The next generation of Navigation
I'ts always tough to predict the future, but I kind of see the next generation of navigation and chart-plotting through the use of an augmented reality headset, probably in for the form factor of thin ski goggles.
Enter Apple Reality..
Let’s assume we get to a place where we have complete consumer version of Apple's Reality Pro, (Reality One) which has widely been predicted to hit in a year or so. We of course may know more on this timeframe after WWDC 2023 in June.
Now, if that comes with an IP7 or IP8 waterproof rating from the glasses down to the proposed waist mounted battery pack, if it does indeed come with one, then we could have a situation where we could do away with much of the very expensive navigation equipment I have outlined and listed above.
We would literally have an Apple Reality headset that was splash, or waterproof and you would have the perfect augmented reality data overlay on your face.
VMG (velocity made good), AWS (apparent windspeed), AWA (apparent wind angle) and SOG (speed over ground) all plumbed into the headsets screen via Bluetooth connection to the central computer, so it can give you an overlay to make a better, safer sailing experience.
Not only the above, but navigational overlays, this is where I see the biggest win. You would no longer need to keep looking down at floor or waist level to look at chartplotter screens that are probably wet, or smeared with saltwater residue. Navigation would be clear and easy to read as its comming from within the glasses.
Take a look at what I mean using a product some friends of mine at LikeXR made..
This would mean no need for chartplotters or data tablets on the steering pedestals, the cockpit table, or, as a lot of cruiser racer type boats and fast catamarans like Gunboat or HH at the base of the mast.
One of the other major issues with all of this current crop of electrical equipment on board is high complexity of maintainence, things break and regularly do in a saltwater environment.
Not everyone is an electrical engineer!
Depending where you are in the world, lightning strikes can be a frequent, dangerous occurence. I watch a fair bit of YouTube sailing, one group of friends on a Lagoon catamaran have been hit twice in a couple of years, leading to thousands of dollars of costs, inconvenience and immobility because you can't safely navigate.
Lightning literally melted Colin's computer brain, chartplotter, auto pilot etc, twice! It all has to be replaced which is a $10-$25,000 day out.
Other use cases
The use cases for this type of product would not be limited to just data projection and navigation for sailors.
- 3D video overlays of how to service your engine(s)
- Rigging inspection help and guidance
- Man overboard (MOB) training and simulations
- Survival training simulations
- Medical or injury diagnosis and treatment advice
- Motion Sickness (phobia) simulations and therapy
There are many more, but you get the point..
So having an Apple Reality headset with IP7 or IP8 waterproofing has the potential to solve many problems for sailors, potentially bringing the cost of good navigational equipment down, removing the risks of lightning strikes making the boat totally inoperable. And in the case of older sailing boats where the single chartplotter is at ankle level (in-built into the cockpit table and totally useless), so AR glasses make the most sense as the future of navigational aids.
Stay safe out there, and reef early!