Wearables that can change your life, not just track it

Wearable devices can track your heart rate, monitor your breathing and plot graphs of your sleep habits. But the next generation of wearables doesn’t just keep track of how you feel and what you do — they make you feel and do things better.

At the Wearable Technologies Conference in San Francisco, CNET’s Lexy Savvides tried out Doppel, from Team Turquoise, a bracelet that sits on the pulse point of your wrist and delivers a vibration that feels like a heartbeat. The creators claim it can change the way you feel by simulating a fast or slow pulse.

“If its pulse is really fast that makes you feel more energized, more alert,” explained Dr. Fotini Markopoulou, director of research and development at Team Turquoise. “If it’s slow, that calms you down, and in any case the steady beat of it just makes you focus more.”

It’s not the only device out there aimed at helping you focus.

Special glasses called Narbis are intended to help improve focus by giving you a visual nudge when you start to wander off task.

The glasses have sensors that measure brainwaves and send these signals to lenses that can lighten and darken on command. When attention drifts, the lenses darken — a subtle cue that says, “Hey, snap out of it!” When attention sharpens, they clear. The idea is to train your brain to stay focused so you never end up in the dark.

Vigo, which sits in your ear like a Bluetooth headphone and wraps part of the way around your face, provides a similar service. But it functions by tracking patterns in your blinks and body movements “to quantify how alert you are in real time,” rather than relying on brainwaves.

“Although your brain has a tendency to trick you into thinking you’re mentally fit enough to keep pushing on with your daily business, your body can’t hide when you’re tired,” the creators explained on their Kickstarter page. (They beat their $50,000 fundraising target.) “With an infrared sensor, an accelerometer, and a clever algorithm, Vigo knows you’re drowsy before you do.”

Vigo gives options for how it gets you going again: “Choose between a soft pulsing vibration, a discreet notification LED or your favorite ‘pump up’ song to help you re-focus and get back in the zone.”

Efficiency and effectiveness aren’t just about jolting yourself awake and zoning in on the task at hand. Being able to zone out can help you perform better.

And it’s not just yogis taking that idea to heart (and head). Technophiles in Silicon Valley are increasingly harnessing mindfulness to improve their performance. No surprise, they’re plugging in to disconnect.

Based on principles of mindfulness, headsets from Neurosky and Muse harness brain power for calm, helping ease wearers into a meditative state. Brainwave feedback and connected apps help users control a wandering mind and learn to meditate more effectively. Holosync uses sound to induce the brain wave patterns of deep meditation.

And what are you left with? Oura, the modern mood ring, can tell you.

Its infrared LED tracks your pulse while a 3D accelerometer and a temperature sensor keep tabs on your body’s movements. Putting it all together with recovery levels and sleep phases, Oura is intended to let users adjust their daily exertion based on how much energy the associated app says they have.

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Wearables that can change your life, not just track it