Right now, they may be known as a customised swimming goggle manufacturing company but that undersells what TheMagic5 is as a company and where they’re heading.
Starting with great success in goggles for swimmers and triathletes, their commitment to offering better fit, comfort and functionality sees the company’s potential mushroom as their technology can be used for custom eyewear, glasses, helmets and more.
We spoke to their co-founder Rasmus Barfred where we talked about the technology that powers their customisation, why customised solutions rules and design philosophies.
We know goggles are one aspect of the business, one aspect of the story, so do you think that goggles is just the first step in your company’s evolution?
Rasmus Barfred: “There’s no such thing as guarantees in this world and you never know what’s gonna happen next year, did we think what would happen in 2020? I really hope that five to ten years from now we’re looking at back at TheMagic5 as a technology company that helped go from mass production, low cost and a one size fits all approach, to having some products where customisation is valued. Let’s say, ‘hey for this type of product, I would be willing to pay a little bit extra to get something that fits me and it has a higher level of functionality.’
“Then the second thing, the whole thing about mass production is its wasteful. Throwing away clothing, people buying two versions of the same shirt online because they’re not sure whether they should have one size or another and sending back the one that doesn’t fit and it gets destructed by the clothing manufacturer or the clothing marketer. That fast fashion cycle is something that I really hope that we could help change by offering more customised solutions.”
What does the short and mid-term break down look like?
RB: “Next year, we expect to open up a customisation factory in Europe. Right now everything is made out of our factory in North Carolina and we deploy to the entire world out of there. We expect to have a new facility open in the first half of next year. Right now the main thing delaying that process is COVID which understandably adds a bit of difficultly right now but we hope it happens during 2021.
“The second big thing for us on the technology side. Right now, what we have is technology that’s really efficient and does a really good job in customising one product for one use case. So swimming goggles for the face; making sure that it fits, is completely functional and is comfortable. What I really want to strive for is our technology going from being a one-to-one technology to becoming a platform that can be used across different products. Overnight, we won’t have the technology that can fit all products to all body parts but we have a targeted approach mapped out where we want our technology platform to be able to achieve within the next year.”
It sounds to me your plans are to become a customisation and personalisation company. Can you describe a little bit of the technologies that powers that customisation and personalisation of attire, glasses, goggles, eyewear?
RB: “Our technology is basically divided into two groups. The first part that you would experience as a customer is the scanning technology. The purpose of that is to make sure that we get a good scan, good and clear data from the scan of your face. That’s the first purpose. But that technology is not what we consider core because we think that technology is going to be very commercialised, it’s something that will live natively in phones going forward. So it’s not a space that we want to compete in. For us, that’s just one ingredient.
“Then we have this fitting technology which is what we consider our core technology and that is basically a huge set of algorithms that knows the dimensions of our product and the variables about those dimensions of the product. For instance, different nose pieces, the width of the goggles from the base, how tall they are. That’s one set. The other thing is how should this product, like swimming goggles, be placed on your face? It’s a huge set of algorithms that manages that entire process of taking the goggles into a digital world and matching it up against the curvatures of your eyes. So every time we get a new customer, we get a face scan, precise data that we can count on and then we apply our algorithms to that face. Conversely, we will understand what the goggles should look like physically, to be able to fit you as good as possible. That’s what our fitness technology can do. And those algorithms, one to one, cannot be used to fit a shirt to a body, a glove to a hand or helmet to a head but the process and the methods are similar.
“Instead of spending two years developing the fitting algorithm for goggles and refining it, we can shorten that development time significantly and get our fitting technology to work with other products very quickly. One of the big drivers and reasons why we can do that is that we have a lot of data on what people’s faces look like. We can’t look at your face, per se, but we can look at the data so we can test new algorithms to fit another product and in that way we can accelerate the learning process.”
Describe how scalable of a solution this is? Taking a scan of a face and being able to fit out any types of goggles, glasses and eyewear, is there ever an issue of scalability?
RB: “The technology has no issue of scalability when you’re looking at different products. So looking at the goggles, for instance, technology doesn’t care whether it’s processing 10, 100 or 10,000 goggles a day.
“What we are working on, and what is really interesting about our technology platform, is that the technology that we have today is kind of the crown jewel of customisation. It’s like an old school tailor, measuring up every point around your body, finding out exactly what the sleeves should look like, how tight the suit should be and they have all the measurements. That’s kind of what we’re doing today. It’s a one-to-one customisation. What we’re using our data for and what we’re developing and working on is to broaden out our customisation technology portfolio. So we would have on one spectrum, technology that we could use on products where we make one-to-one custom fit products, like the goggles. On the other end of the spectrum we have more simple customisation technologies that can be applied a lot more easily and across different types of products and industries. That would be a product where you don’t want one-to-one customised production. Shoes are a good example of that.”
I want to ask you about design, and inspiration. I’m curious by what you look for in products aesthetically? Where do you take your design inspirations from?
RB: “So, this is where our Scandinavian heritage comes into play!
“Especially when you look at our goggles, it’s minimalist, the straight lines, clear stuff, it’s not too busy. I think what drove our design of the goggles we drew inspiration from furniture, housing and architecture. If you look at the design philosophies of well-known Danish architects we’re inspired by their designs and we try to hint at that minimalist approach.
“One member of our co-founding team (Niklas Hedegaard) was a pro swimmer for 10 years and he was working together with our industrial designer (Anders Sonnichsen) who designed the outer shell of the goggles. When you look at the bands of the goggles, the positioning of the bands was driven by Niklas because he wanted to have a goggle where you had a broader peripheral view. When you wear our goggles you feel like more light is coming in from the sides and an improved feeling for what’s going on around you. With other goggles, the field of vision can be a bit more narrower because of the way they’re designed.”
You’re raising capital at the moment from new some key private and public investors. What will the injection of capital do for the business? Will they have a hands on or advisory approach to the business?
RB: “One investor that we can mention that we’re super excited about is Jan Frodeno. He is the biggest name and athlete in triathlon. Not just because of his athletic credentials but also because of who he is, he’s a really major brand and presence in this space.
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“Jan is a big name in Germany, crossing over from triathlon into the lifestyle space and that’s a big positive for us having an athlete with crossover appeal in a big market. He has reached the pinnacles and is still at the top of the sport, but it’s important that his sunglasses sit in place when he is running a marathon in two and a half hours. He has a feeling for how a product should be when they are under stressful situations and that’s what we have to succeed in. He’s obviously a huge name and face for us to help drive our US expansion plans but he’s also able to help us test and develop our products and also help us apply our technology to other products.”
Can you set a milestone that you want to tick off? It could be personal, professional, but what is a milestone you wish to hit?
RB: “I would like to launch within performance products – products where you would like to have a better fit and feel. So basically going with the ambition of TheMagic5 and developing a new product from scratch but applying our technology to another company’s products so they can have a more customised offering.”
Thank you to Ida from Nordic Sports Tech for the introduction to Rasmus and TheMagic5! Check them out here.