Foci, a wearable device when clipped to your waist, tracks each breath you take, and then utilizes motion sensors and machine learning to analyze what your breathing patterns say about your mental state. On a corresponding mobile app, colored bubbles indicate whether you’re distracted, focused, stressed, or in a state of peak performance, and then a set of tools help you train to stay focused longer.
“It’s something that [knows] exactly when you are distracted and increases awareness in you,” says Mick Adams, a co-founder of Tinylogics, the startup that made this new tool. “Then, with fast intervention, you can stop this distraction cycle immediately.”
“When I was at university, like everybody else, I would find myself getting distracted when sat down trying to study. And I began looking at psychological techniques that could help combat procrastination and just get into focus much quicker,” Adams said.
Adams developed the new tool with a team of co-founders who met at Cambridge. Foci assumes that distractions won’t go away, so it tries to train people to better deal with them. The concept is based on well-established studies on the connections between breathing and cognition. A person’s breathing becomes uniform and a bit faster than usual when they’re extremely focused. In a lab, it is fairly easy to measure how focused someone is by tracking their breathing, said Adams.
According to Adams, the machine learning algorithm developed by his team is the power behind the tracking, which uses research into neuro-respiration and breathing techniques to help determine the state of the user. The data gathered is then used to personalize the experience of the individual user over time, something that can take Foci AI as little as four hours.
“It’s all tracked, basically, by leveraging motion and artificial intelligence,” he said. “We’ve got a very simple sensor in the wearable and that tracks your diaphragmatic breathing. And for about 20 years, there’s been some serious research into neuro-respiration and a correlation found between your breathing and your cognition,” Adams said.
The app also helps you focus better by suggesting mental strategies and can help change habits. For example, if your automatic response to being tired is to do a certain household chore, you can enter that in the app. It’ll then suggest the next time you notice that pattern and think of a n alternative response.
Another part of the app shows how someone’s mental state changes throughout the day. The device also gives physical reminders through vibration.
Currently doing the rounds on Kickstarter, Foci is available from $59, with shipments expected to begin in October.