August 15, 2014
Ask any yogi, and you’ll find out that “just” breathing is a lot harder than you think – maybe it’s why all those new-agey types have “breathe” tattooed on their wrists as a constant reminder. Humans have a knack for doing the bare minimum, even when it comes to breathing. The good news is that we’re also geniuses when it comes to whipping up technology that makes our life easier. Spire is the latest health and wellness gadget to take your breath away…and then give it back better than ever.
First, let’s cover the basics. It retails for $149. It’s a smart device that helps you reclaim your breath. It says things like, “You haven’t taken a deep breath in 30 minutes.” It can truly make you happier, healthier, and more productive without a single step on a treadmill, giving up steak and potatoes, or gagging down any green juice.
Spire measures your breathing, visualizes it, and links that information in real time to an app.
Keep calm and clip it on
A small and unobstructive device, it can snap onto your bra or belt. It looks like a small stone, the perfect accoutrement to your yoga gear, business basics, or cocktail attire. The inventor, Neema Moraveji, makes wellness look good. A PhD at Stanford University focusing on augmented self-regulation, Moraveji is all about self-improvement – and helping others achieve their own wellness goals. Yes, he likes long walks in the forest and conversations that stretch for hours. He practically embodies yoga and peace.
But that doesn’t mean he’s a Luddite. Moraveji sees a very real and necessary space for technology in our daily lives. He came from the research departments of Google and Microsoft as an intern, but it was the Stanford Calming Technology Lab where he found his stride. His mission? “Change the way the world breathes.” It was a perfect match for him, given his background in athletics, swimming, and meditation.
“The science behind breathing is fascinating: a single slow breath is the simplest, easiest thing one can do for their health and productivity, yet we have no robust means of ensuring we do it at the right time and improve over time.”
Okay, that might sound like a lot of science meets Ommmm nonsense, but the end result – Spire – is a lot more accessible.
Wait – hasn’t this been done before?
There are a lot of gadgets out there to track your heart rate and even give you a shock if you don’t meet your daily fitness goals. There are even breath trackers, but their reliability is right up there with the odds of you showing up to the gym on a holiday. They were clunky, clumsy, uncomfortable, and embarrassing to wear. Some had big straps you had to clamp around your chest so it was like you were wearing a seatbelt for your big meeting or while watching TV.
Even if you live with just your cat, nobody wants to feel stupid and trapped while they binge watch Netflix. Moraveji saw the problem, and when he met Jonathan Palley – Beijing super entrepreneur with a background in selling educational startups – the magic happened. Morajevi has the vision and the brains, Palley has the resources (to the tune of a big data and hardware team as well as multiple manufacturing contacts).
Money helps everyone breathe easier
Now officially the Spire team, together the duo hooked up with StartX (a Stanford-based accelerator) and focused on raising seed money via AngelList opportunities. Facebook Gifts head honcho Lee Linden got behind them, as well as a slew of investors with a background in medical gadgets. In total, Spire raised $1.5 million and is in the midst of scoring Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. Once this happens, it will be an official medical device, and not just a cool toy to play with at the gym.
Spire has undergone 160 versions and transformations. A smartphone app has been created. Pre-orders are being taken and the first devices will ship next month. The final price is $150, but pre-orders can snag a $30 discount (Helpful tip: saving money can slow your heart rate and help you breathe easier).
But how does it work?
Spire itself looks just like a small pebble and has no buttons or screens. It’s less than half the size of an old-school pager (so you’ll feel a little retro). A clip can snap onto any piece of clothing that moves with you as you take breaths. Tuck it into jeans or wear it proud on your lapel like a fashion trend. It connects to smartphones via Bluetooth so you get real-time information 24/7 (or as long as you’re wearing it).
But what does it do? Everything you can imagine. It counts steps, records the vigor level of your workouts, and takes note of whether a person is standing, sitting, or laying down. If you sit for “too long” (whatever you determine that to be), it can remind you to take a walk or stretch – or not. You decide the settings.
Do you like to move it, move it? Probably not
People like to sit, regardless of what pop and rap songs might have you believe. You’re not twerking or popping as much as you think. “People only move about 15 percent of their day. How do you build a wearable that creates value for you your entire day?” Moraveji asks. It’s simple: by measuring your breath. However, what Spire really measures is much more than that.
“Spire tracks changes in your state of mind as measured by your breathing patterns. The Spire app surfaces streaks of focus, tension, calm, and activity, increasing your awareness of what gets you focused or tense,” says Moraveji.
With Spire, you get a report on how often you breathe, the magnitude of it, and the in-out ratio. An easy graphic display of your breath lets you see your true patterns and encourages you naturally to breathe deeper. Exhales are displayed as fogged up glass with just a half-second delay. The screen ranges from black to red (for stress).
Lots of love
One battery charge can last for a week. Choose from metal or cork charging “dishes.” All you have to do is drop Spire into the charging dish and it’ll be fully charged in a couple of hours. The dish also boasts a USB outlet just in case you want to charge another device at the same time. It plays well with Qi charging options and will initially be available on iPhone 4S.
How you use Spire is up to you. Moraveji notes, “Spire can be used in different ways for different people. It can show you what makes you tense, focused, calm, and so on. It can also be used to reach goals and track improvement over time, but it doesn’t have to be used in that way. At its core, Spire is a tool to help you learn about yourself so you can live healthier, more balanced, and more productive.”
As someone who has sat at a desk for the greater part of 20 years, this could be a revolutionary product to keep us office dwellers in a more healthy state.
For beta testers, what they’ve really fallen in love with are the notifications for breathing. Feeling tense, scared or frustrated? Your breath will become shallower. You can opt into “games” that help you breathe deeper and there are oodles of breathing activities.
Serenity now? Yes, please.
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