Tobu or not Tobu

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That is the Question…

A new logbook and tracking App, Tobu, is sweeping across the skydiving community. We tracked down company owner and software developer Diego Rincon, to find out what all the fuss is about…

Diego, thank you for your time. Can you tell us, in a nutshell, what Tobu does for skydivers? 

Diego Rincon

Tobu accomplishes two main objectives; logbook management and skills progression.

As a logbook, Tobu allows skydivers to record each skydive, to the standards set by the USPA. Jumpers can log data accurately such as exit and deployment altitude, freefall time and more. You can also add personal notes, get your jumps signed and easily enter gear details and jump type.

For skills progression we are constantly working on providing invaluable insights and data-driven feedback to help skydivers progress safely. With Tobu you have access to performance analysis that tells you your speed, glide ratio, and altitude throughout your entire jump. It allows you to learn retrospectively and debrief your skydive with coaches and peers. 

How, when and why did the idea come about? 

I wanted a way to know exactly how I was setting up my landing pattern, because my landing accuracy was not improving. I wanted to know what changes in position could make my tracking more efficient or steeper. I was determined to make informed decisions based on concrete data rather than relying on vague recollections of my jumps. The tools available at that time providing data and performance analysis were primarily physical devices. This posed two significant challenges; high costs and difficulty to roll out updates and fix bugs. 

I decided to use mobile phones and create a cost-effective, user-friendly solution accessible to every skydiver. I wrote the first line of code in November 2021 and that same day I was dropping my phone from the ceiling to the couch to understand how the phone’s sensors responded to the dynamics of freefall and acceleration. In a few months I had a fully functional prototype and on April 4th, 2022 Tobu recorded its first jump during a big-way camp at Taupo Tandem Skydiving.

What is your background, why did you feel qualified to write this?

With a background in Electronics Engineering and more than 10 years of software development experience, I have the knowledge to undertake a project like this one. I have collaborated with forward-thinking companies that prioritise the creation of exceptional user experiences. This experience has influenced Tobu’s design philosophy, emphasising minimalism and user-centricity.

We are committed to ensuring that Tobu never becomes an additional distraction. That’s why we crafted Tobu to be an unobtrusive companion, minimising clutter and interactions to ensure that your focus remains on your skydive.

Skydiving is both a passion and a pursuit of mine. While I’m relatively new to the sport with just over 300 jumps, we’ve gathered feedback from tandem masters, AFF instructors, skydiving schools and federations to ensure that Tobu aligns with logging requirements and delivers valuable information.

What did it take to make the idea a reality? 

Bringing our vision to life required a multifaceted approach. Our initial phase involved my partner and I testing Tobu ourselves, which was limited to belly and head up jumps with the occasional angle and wingsuit jumps. At this stage most of the development efforts were dedicated to refining the foundations of Tobu’s data processing algorithms. 

In September 2022 we embarked on our beta testing program, in which numerous skydivers participated. This collaborative effort allowed us to have data collected across several skydives that we could use to fine-tune and optimise Tobu’s capabilities. This phase lasted five months, during which we analysed every facet of the app’s performance. We launched in February 2023.

How did it feel to get feedback from your first users? 

It was incredible. The first people I received feedback from were the skydivers who joined the beta testing program. Although they were excited to use Tobu, they saw it go from just an idea to a reality. Their feedback and suggestions have been invaluable.

However, the moment I’ll never forget is when I was getting ready for a load wearing a Tobu-branded jersey, and one skydiver approached us and asked if we were the people behind Tobu. When we said yes, he said how much he loved it and used it all the time. That was the moment I knew we were making a difference.

What were the biggest challenges? 

One of our biggest challenges, an aspect of Tobu that has a dedicated team looking after it, revolves around extracting insights and skydiving information from sensor data. Making Tobu fully automated meant that skydivers could start recording before jumping on the load and stop after putting their rig down. This approach means that each skydive generates roughly 30 minutes of data, with only a fraction, approximately 3-5 minutes, directly relevant to the jump itself. Additionally, each skydive is unique in nature, which requires Tobu to be able to identify specific patterns to differentiate the different stages of each skydive; climbing to altitude, freefall, under canopy, and landing.

Did the idea take on a life of its own? 

Tobu began as a personal quest for knowledge, a way for me to access information I sought for my own skydiving journey. I never imagined Tobu would evolve and become the platform it is today. It was through conversations with other skydivers that I began to realise how much technology could profoundly impact and enrich the experiences of skydivers across all skill levels.

Indeed, Tobu has transcended its original concept and taken on a life of its own, continuously evolving and growing in scope. While its current form is a significant leap from its humble beginnings, Tobu is still in its infancy, with ambitious plans for the future.

If you’d known what lay ahead, would you still have started?

If I had known, I would have started earlier. It’s been a great and rewarding journey full of challenges and learning. I believe I have become a better skydiver just by working on Tobu. Although I’d do things a bit differently now that I know better, there’s no doubt that I’d do it all over again.

Do governing bodies like USPA accept digital proof of jump numbers?

Tobu has been deemed compliant with USPA’s logging guidance, which means that Tobu can be used across all USPA affiliated dropzones when verifying licences and rating qualifications as well as skills requirements. We want to work with other skydiving federations and associations worldwide to promote the use of digital logbooks and make Tobu compliant with their regulations.

How is Tobu different from other logbook apps?

Some digital logbooks rely entirely on user input to record skydiving data. This doesn’t leverage the benefits that accurate data can provide for skills progression and safety. However, just capturing and displaying data is not enough to achieve this. Data alone is meaningless; it is by analysing and interpreting it that knowledge is created. We want skydivers to gain a better understanding of their performance through Tobu. This is the most ambitious and rewarding challenge we face. Accuracy and relevancy are at the core of Tobu.

What’s the benefit of jumping with a phone rather than a digital logbook incorporated into altimeters, audibles etc?

Data captured in altimeters and audibles is not readily accessible, if at all, and often relies on other tools, like downloading to a computer to extract information. Tobu addresses all the aspects of logbook management, data capture and analysis. They are always with you and available as soon as you finish tracking your jump. Video is no longer the only tool to debrief the skydive with peers, coaches, or students.

Do you think many people jump with their phone?

It’s hard to tell how many people jump with their phones, but it’s becoming a more common practice. Some dropzones encourage people to jump with their phones as an additional safety measure, in case of an off-landing or an emergency, especially if wingsuiting or angle flying.

What do you think is the coolest feature?

It depends on the type of jump I’m doing. For example, the flight trajectory helped me understand my canopy better and improve my landing accuracy. It has also helped me to plan my wingsuit and tracking jumps. I also benefit from knowing the maximum, average, and minimum vertical speeds in big-way formations. It helped me understand my reach and how a weight belt affected my performance in different fall rates.

If I had to choose one feature, I would go for the newly-released performance analysis tool. It combines the flight trajectory with glide ratio and vertical and horizontal speed charts to provide a second-by-second analysis of your entire skydive.

How can jumpers get the App? 

The app is available to download through the App Store [link here] and we are currently working on the Android Version. You can expect to have it available on the Play Store at the beginning of 2024.

What does it cost? 

We follow a freemium model. Our mission is to provide every skydiver with a better alternative to physical logbooks. This is why made Tobu’s logbook management features accessible to everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are starting your AFF or if you are a seasoned skydiver, you will always have access to your fully automated logbook at no cost. A paid subscription will give access to insights like flight trajectories and performance analysis. 

What can we expect next? 

I can’t reveal much now, but we are in conversations with a skydiving school to enhance Tobu’s training, progression, and safety features and make it an even more helpful tool for students and instructors.

We are continuously working on improving Tobu in all areas, have several new features in progress and will continue to develop it according to feedback from our users.

Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers? 

I want to thank everyone who has been involved in making Tobu a reality. This includes all our users around the world and those who have joined us in this journey.

Our primary goal is to benefit the skydiving community. If you have any questions or suggestions please contact us via any of our social media channels or via email info@nso.co.nz. We are looking forward to hearing from you and building Tobu together.

Diego Rincon

Testimonials 

I have found Tobu to be a useful skydiving tool. After a big day of jumping, trying to remember how many jumps I did to fill out my logbook is one of the last things I want to do. By using Tobu throughout the day, I have all my jumps logged electronically making life so much easier when it comes to filling out the paper logbook. 

The coolest thing is that Tobu isn’t just a logbook, it also has some interesting stats such as where you went in freefall and under canopy. The thing that I absolutely love about Tobu is how user-friendly and fast it is. Once you have your canopies and wingsuits saved, it is super easy to select what gear you‘re using on that jump, what you’re doing and then just hit the “Start” button. Once you’ve landed you hit the “Finish” button and you’re all done.

Travis Funnell
Tandem Master
Travis Funnell

I’ve been using Tobu for almost a year and it’s kept track of all my jumps! No matter what I do Tobu is there for me with all my data needs. Tobu helps me track my speed and my navigation. It makes keeping an accurate record of my freefall time so easy. It doesn’t matter if I’m jumping from 8, 10 or 16 thousand feet, Tobu measures every second. It saves me having to calculate the extra time from wingsuit jumps or the extra fall rate of free flying. Tobu is a great App and a must-have for all skydivers!

George Weeks
Sport Skydiver
George Weeks

For more information check out the Tobu website

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Meet: Lesley Gale

Lesley has been in love with skydiving for 35 years. She is a multiple world and national record holder and a coach on 20 successful record events worldwide. She has over 100 competition medals spanning more than 25 years and has been on the British 8-way National team at World events. She started Skydive Mag to spread knowledge, information and passion about our amazing sport.
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