I was in the middle of a tense confrontation when a friend of mine quietly gave me a simple piece of advice: “Breathe.” I was so tense I hadn’t even realized that I had literally started to hold my breath! I was exhibiting “tension unawareness” and, if not for my friend’s intervention, I might still be holding my breath!
What is Spire?
Amid the recent proliferation of wearable tech devices, this event came to mind as I wondered, “Could wearable tech help address my ‘tension unawareness’ with real-time feedback?” Well, that’s what the folks at Spire have aspired to deliver. I recently purchased their wearable sensor and downloaded the iOS app to see if there was substance to their claim that controlling my breathing could help control my state of mind.
Spire’s wearable sensor is reminiscent of a skipping stone and comes with an elegantly designed wireless charging station. It uses Bluetooth to pair with an iPhone, and the iOS app uses a variety of data visualization approaches to convey information regarding breathing and state of mind. Their real-time kite-ribbon graph is especially mesmerizing.
Source: Hee Jun Rho
Two things I came to quickly appreciate about Spire as I used it over the course of several days:
1) Vibrate Alert
The wearable sensor would tickle me like a pager (remember those?) if I was in an extended bout of shallow or tense breathing and hadn’t taken a deep breath in a while. I found this physical alert to be quite helpful in the midst of my unawareness since I could then immediately go through simple breathing exercises to help alleviate tension or bring about greater focus.
2) Two-Minute Streaks
The app won’t recognize breathing patterns until you experience at least a two-minute streak of calm, focus, or activity (or tension!). Why did I appreciate this two-minute threshold?
Source: Hee Jun Rho
The graph above from the Spire app conveys extended streaks of focus, tension, calm, and activity from a day in my week. But what I found just as informative was reading between the lines, the “dark” periods in the graph where I was in meetings or at my open-office work desk and could not sustain any streaks of at least two minutes’ duration. That’s not to say that my goal is to have a full day’s worth of focus or calm. Rather, my takeaway from this observation:
Given my prior tendency toward “tension unawareness,” am I also prone to periods of being unaware of how unfocused I am? And if so, what’s the context around those periods where I lack focus?
I haven’t generated enough data yet to draw more conclusions but, even with just three days’ worth of data, I am clearly benefiting from better controlled breathing and, as a result, better controlled state of mind.
Quantified Self Meets Quantified Us: I’ll Show You My Data If You Show Me Yours
I was geeking out on some of the detailed data outputs from the app and thought there had to be other users that were just as stoked about their own findings. But there wasn’t an online Spire community at the time of this post. A Spire community would be a great example of a Quantified Self platform evolving into a Quantified Us platform. Others have begun to write and speak about the need for this evolution based on the emergence of like-minded folks who want to upload and share quantified data from their personal tech and learn from and celebrate with each other as a community. Some folks have taken the conversation even further in the context of a Quantified Workplace, in both corporate settings and professional sports.
Waiting With Bated Breath
As interesting as the Quantified Self and Quantified Workplace conversations have been, what I’m waiting with bated breath to see is the evolution of the Quantified Us movement in healthcare. Stay tuned for future posts on groundbreaking collaborations that range from the Joslin HypoMap, which addresses hypoglycemia unawareness in diabetes, to NightScout and the #WeAreNotWaiting volunteer movement.