Wired well-being

Wired well-being

Six wearables and apps to improve health and happiness

There’s an app for that. Camdiluv, CC BY-NC-SA

The age of the wearable is fast upon us, and many of the new products we’re going to see in the next 12 months will be all about health and happiness. The New York Times recently predicted that soon some wearables will seamlessly blend in by looking like a skin-coloured sticking plasters and even perhaps become fashion items. There are also lots of new apps in this area too.

I’ll be trying some out over the next few months but here are six that have come across my desk: one hand-held, two wearables and three apps that can help you calm down, straighten up, and take a deep breath.

One hand-held

Walking on egg-shells feeling? Handout

PIP: It may not technically be a wearable – since it’s hand-held rather than worn – but PIP monitors electrical changes on your skin and uses the data to measure your level of stress. It then trains you to relax by using biofeedback techniques delivered via two mobile apps on iOS and Android. You hold the PIP between your finger and thumb as you play one of two games: “The Loom” challenges you to “use your powers of relaxation to turn winter into summer” by consciously reducing your stress levels until the Loom landscape alters to reflect your inner calmness, when “snow and ice thaw, leaves begin to shoot and flowers bloom”, says the company. In “Relax and Race”, your stress level is used to determine your speed in the race – the more you relax, the faster you go. Strange but true.

Two wearables

Compact elevator. Handout
Lumo Lift: If you’re a sloucher, this discreet item could help you straighten up. It looks like a small square brooch, but it’s much more than jewellery. The device tracks your posture, the number of steps you take, the distance you’ve travelled, and the calories you’ve consumed. But its main job is to remind you to sit or stand up straight by emitting gentle vibrations when required. Better than a grumpy relative yelling “stop slumping”. It’s available on iOS only, but a desktop app for Windows 7+ and Mac computers with Bluetooth 4.0 capabilities are promised soon, with Android to follow later.

Getting charged. Handout
Spire: Spire calls its device a “stone”, giving it an aura of having come from nature, but actually it’s made of steel and plastic, as you would expect. It clips onto your clothes somewhere close to your body – a belt, or a bra strap for example – and watches the way you breathe. Then it analyses the data in real time and feedback prompts you to alter your behaviour in that moment. Here’s the kind of advice it gives: “A slow, deep breath is the simplest, most concrete thing you can do to change your health and performance.”

It can be used in many different situations, including yoga practice, meditation, and sleep, as well as the usual daily activities. The company says it offers “activity tracking for body and mind” and it ships with its own charging pad. Like Lumo Lift, this is current only available for iOS, with Android to follow.

And three apps

Here are two very different apps designed to raise your happiness levels.

Head in the clouds. Fr0002, CC BY-NC-SA

Happiness by Design: September saw the publication of the book, “Happiness by Design”, a study of the measurement of happiness and its causes and consequences by Paul Dolan, professor of behavioural science at the London School of Economics. Dolan discusses ways to do more of the things that bring us pleasure and purpose and, perhaps, make our days and lives more worthwhile. There’s also an app for this – two in fact – that appear to have been developed to put the research into practice: HBD Measure helps you identify the activities in your life that you find to be the most worthwhile, what they are and who you do them with. HBD Monitor allows you to track and log much more information to build up a bigger picture of your day-to-day life and worthwhile feelings and happiness.

Kindly. Handout
Kindly: “We all get stuck at times” says Kindly, so why not “gain a fresh perspective by chatting with helpful people who enjoy lending their ears?” Choose the topic you want to talk about and they will match you with a kind person for a 15-minute anonymous chat session via the app. Or if you see yourself as more of a listener, you can lend an ear when you have some spare time. And if you discover a promising interaction, you can send a friend request. iOS only.

One other app that I thought interesting still hasn’t materialised. iOS 8 users waiting for Apple’s much-vaunted HealthKit platform will have to wait a little longer. It has a bug. Let’s hope it’s not measles.