Custom 3D-printed goggles created to your face shape, using a proprietary app and algorithm.
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You’ve seen the Instagram ads and the pros looking sleek as they pull on a pair of odd-shaped goggles. But you aren’t quite sure what custom goggles are, or why you might need them. These Magic5 goggles (actually called, weirdly, TheMagic5): Are they really worth the hype, even if you’re not Jan Frodeno? And yes, he owns shares in the company.
After trying a custom pair for a few months, I was curious enough about how they’re made that I got on the phone with co-founder Rasmus Barfred, so let’s start with some basics.
TheMagic5 story is this: Barfred and his two cofounders, Bo Haaber and Niklas Hedegaard, couldn’t find goggles they really liked. Ranging from former pro swimmers to dedicated triathletes, they all largely wore variations of the painful Swedish goggles that swimmers seem to love—and had spent many hours every week for many years simply dealing with the annoyance of goggles pinching or leaking or rubbing or causing headaches, and constantly needing to be readjusted. After all three surveyed a bunch more pro swimmer friends, they concluded this was a real gap in the market: regular goggles don’t really fit anyone well.
“One size fits all won’t work for everyone’s face,” Barfred said. And so they set about trying to engineer a way to create custom goggles and mass market them. In 2018, they raised funds on Kickstarter and launched Magic5 with a production facility in Charlotte, North Carolina. Suffice it to say, they now have a lot more funding.
So let’s concede that serious pro swimmers, who spend 10+ hours in the pool every week, were not in love with the standard goggle options. They simply tolerated the fit issues. But does it really matter for those of us who swim far less? Do custom Magic5 goggles actually do anything?
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How TheMagic5 Goggles Work
To start out the process, you have to download TheMagic5 app, create an account and order your tint and color, and then you’re pushed to connect your order to a scan of your face. You then use the app to scan your face from all angles. It’s a fairly simple process—hold up the camera at about arm’s length and you’re prompted to make your face fit inside a circle until everything lines up. You also need to hold up a credit card (or something credit card sized) to create a frame of reference for the computer algorithm. This is actually becoming a fairly standard way to establish perspective and proportional size in phone and app systems (for instance, doing a bike fit remotely).
According to Barfred, this is the point at which the algorithm takes over. He says it’s “our secret sauce,” and won’t tell me more, but suffice it to say they’re using machine learning and other fancy computer modeling words. What that means in simpler terms is that the more people they’re able to put Magic5 goggles on and get feedback from, then the more they can refine the model and adjust to certain common fit issues and facial features. That also means they actually still want your feedback, if you buy a pair. If you rate your goggles a 9 or 10, then they’ll feed your data into their algorithm. If you don’t like them, they’ll make adjustments and, in theory, send you a new pair.
TheMagic5 then 3D prints the gasket—ie. the part of the goggle that curves around your eye socket—and the nose bridge. And a few weeks later, you get your goggles.
Magic5 Goggles: The Good
I put on the goggles, jumped in, and swam 1000y warmup—straight, no stopping, no touching or adjusting my goggles. And for 700 yards it was the clearest and best I’ve ever seen in the water. I could see every crack at the bottom of the pool; I was amazed, sold. Then they fogged up. (More on that below.)
After that, over two to three months of swimming three to five times per week, the goggles wore out at about the same rate as regular goggles. On the whole, I largely didn’t think about them when I was swimming—which, I guess, is actually the point. It left me a bit ambivalent, though. Sure, they seemed good, but I didn’t really notice much of a difference between them and my old googles? (I tended to rotate between Roka, Vorgee, and some Tyr goggles, for reference, and had never really had any issues.) So then I went back to my old goggles to compare. And, oh, they pinch, they leave worse goggle marks, they hurt! By comparison, TheMagic5 goggles seemed amazing.
Magic5 Goggles: The Bad
Yes, they fogged up almost immediately. Barfred will be the first to admit to you there are two problems with goggles: fit and fog. TheMagic5 has done nothing about the fogging problem. They use the same anti-fog product as pretty much every other company.
Now, the fit: A few times, if I didn’t get them on just right and if I pushed off the wall too hard, the goggles would come loose and start leaking. What the heck, I asked Barfred. He confirmed that one of the issues they have is explaining to people how to put their goggles on—which, it should be noted, if you need to tell your customers how to put on goggles, that’s probably going to be a scaleability problem. In essence, from my understanding, regular goggles use suction to stay on. You basically push them on your face as hard as possible. TheMagic5 goggles, in theory, do not. So shoving harder doesn’t necessary make them stick to your face more. You have to get them situated on your face, in your eye socket, correctly, before you start swimming. My eye sockets are fairly deep—which may both be why I didn’t have too many issues with regular goggles before and also why I needed to make sure these were on just right. Sometimes, it felt as if I needed to hold the exact right expression while I was swimming in order to keep the goggles in place. (It was a continually surprised look.) Barfred said they could adjust and send me a new pair.
An important note for triathletes: TheMagic5 does not do prescription goggles currently, and they don’t really make an open-water goggle. If a wider field of vision is important to you for open-water races, then go with another goggle.
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Are TheMagic5 Worth It?
Depending on which color and lens you get, a pair of Magic5 goggles is $55 to $65. (You can also buy a bundle of three for $100-120 on sale.) For many triathletes, if you’re only going to swim a few thousands yards per week, that’s probably just not worth it. Particularly, if you don’t have any issues with your current goggles.
However, if you have fit issues with your goggles, if you’re constantly readjusting them or trying to figure out why they’re leaking (it’s probably because your swim cap is breaking the suction of the goggle rim), or if your goggles are painful or pinchy or annoying enough that they discourage you from swimming, then what’s another $30-40 more than a regular pair of goggles if it’ll actually get you in the pool?
For whatever it’s worth, I’m about to fork over some more money for a new pair of TheMagic5—but not without getting them to adjust the small issues on my profile first.