Wearable technology offers a lot of ways for busy people to feel even busier: Fitness trackers let you obsess over every step you take, smart watches make sure text messages pop up right on your wrist, and Bluetooth headsets put a ringing phone right next to your eardrum.
Now, a new device just wants to remind you to pause and take a breath.
It's called Spire, and it attaches to a belt, bra-strap, even your underpants -- basically any part of clothing that keeps the unit close to your body. It measures your breathing patterns and uses them to draw conclusions about your state of mind. The company says Spire is the first wearable to monitor breathing in an attempt to track mental health.
"It's very hard to stay mindful throughout our chaotic and always connected day," Jonathan Palley, Spire's CEO, told The Huffington Post via email. "The design of the Spire experience is not to interrupt you every time you're tense, but to bring mindfulness and awareness streaks of tension/focus/calm within this chaos."
The unit costs $149.95 and interacts with an iPhone app that pops up notifications throughout the day. In a demo video, for example, a businesswoman is rushing around and enters an elevator. She pulls her phone out and sees there's a notification from the Spire app: "Your breathing suggests you're tense. Take a deep breath?" She does, and then the app informs her that she's become focused.
Spire wants to help you stay calm and focused by paying attention to your breathing patterns.
"The notifications that interrupt you are only after long periods of tension without any type of self-correction. We've found this mostly happen(s) when we become tense for an extended period of time but are unaware of it," Palley said.
In other words, if you're taking care of yourself, the app won't go out of its way to bug you.
Just like fitness apps suggest a certain amount of steps per day, Spire wants you to reach mental health goals. It presents that information to you in an interactive calendar. The app also offers you "boosts," audio-based breathing exercises that can help you attain a bit of calm, for example.
According to Recode's Lauren Goode, it can be tricky to reach the app's "quota" for the amount of time per day you're focused, calm, and active. She also noted that her device seemed a bit buggy, though Spire says it'll work out any kinks in future updates.
As for whether Spire is actually a road to true mental peace, Diana Winston, director of mindfulness education at the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, said it sounds promising, though she wasn't necessarily 100 percent sold.
"I often say that being mindful is not difficult, it’s remembering to be mindful that is difficult. So, if this device helps people remember to breathe or slow down, I would say it could be helpful," Winston told HuffPost via email.
"However, as my students often discover, reminders (from Post-It notes to technology) initially work well, but then usually fade into the background," she added.
Spire stops short of calling itself an actual "mindfulness tracker," though its founder, Neema Moraveji, recently wrote that he hopes it can help you be "aware of how you feel and your state of mind."
Of course, failing that, the device also tracks how many steps you take -- and walking, we know, is also a great stress-buster.