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Spire: New company started at Stanford aims to improve health through breathing

The Spire on its cork charging station

Breathing. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, it’s one of the simplest things you can do to support mental and physical well-being, yet many people forget to breathe, and end up with heightened stress as a result. What if there were a way to remind you ever so subtly to breathe over the course of the day, allowing you to feel more relaxed, calm and productive?

Neema Moraveji of the Calming Technology Lab at Stanford and one of the  founders of Spire

Neema Moraveji of the Calming Technology Lab at Stanford and one of the founders of Spire

Calming technology?

Enter Spire, a new company started by researchers from Stanford who study ‘calming technology.’ If the words ‘calming technology’ sound like an oxymoron, you haven’t met Neema Moraveji, one of the founders of Spire, who has spent years studying how people can regulate improve their self awareness and mental health through technology.

“Breath is a window into the state of mind,” says Neema, “and breathing is the easiest way to change how the mind is working so we can create more focused awareness and clear thinking.” To help people become more aware of their breath and its impact on physical and mental health, Neema and his Spire collegues created a wearable technology tool that monitors breathing and sends notifications throughout the day about their breath intake. “The Spire will send you a quick notification via a buzz or beep if it senses a lack of breath,” Neema explains. “Then all it takes is one deep breath to change the mental state from anxiety to calm.”

Preventing ‘screen apnea’

Many people unconsciously stop breathing regularly when they are working on a computer, a phenomenon known as “screen apnea,” and this lack of breath can not only increase tension but also decrease the ability to work effectively.

The Spire is designed to be inconspicuous

The Spire is designed to be inconspicuous

On the flip side, Neema’s research has looked at how breath can induce a state of calm that improves productivity and enhances mental sharpness. “With the Spire, we can show people periods of the day where they are more tense (breath is more shallow)- as well as more calm (deeper breath). Calmness is great, but stress, focused thinking and engagement are also part of life. Our users tell us that being able to regulate these feelings just through breath is incredibly powerful.”

Natural design+ iphone app

The Spire won a People’s Design Award from Cooper Hewitt in October 2014  and its organic shape is designed to feel like a natural stone vs. a piece of

The Spire is worn next to the body to regulate breath

The Spire is worn next to the body to regulate breath

plastic technology (plus it can go through the wash, unlike many other wearable tech products). Users clip the Spire on their belts or a bra strap (somewhere that touches the body), and the device monitors abdominal movement to gauge breath intake. The Spire device is paired with an iphone app that sends the wearer notifications throughout the day about their breath, along with summary reports that show breathing patterns over time. This video shows the Spire in action.

Spire users appreciate the simplicity: breathe more, feel better

The Spire, which costs $149, just started shipping in November 2014, and Neema says that the early consumers are not the yoga devotees they expected. “The majority of Spire users are women in their 30s and 40s who don’t have much experience with meditation or mindfulness, but they want simple, actionable ways improve their health.”

The Spire app gives a report of your breath over the course of the day

The Spire app gives a report of your breath over the course of the day

Spire is an angel-backed start up that recently presented at the Y Combinator Winter 2015 Demo Day. Read more about the company here. To learn more about Calming Technology at Stanford, check out this article.

 

 

 

About the author

Victoria Thorp

Victoria Thorp

Victoria is the founder and editor of Palo Alto Pulse and has lived in Palo Alto since 2007. Victoria's diverse professional background includes working as the editor of GreatSchools.org , as a senior writer for KIPP and Teach for America, and as a radio producer for City Visions on KALW (91.7FM San Francisco). She is a graduate of Leadership Palo Alto and a member of the Palo Alto Partners in Education Advisory Board.

She has a BA in English from Tufts University and Masters in Education and Secondary Teaching Credential in English from UCLA.