Move over, Apple Watch, this sleek new wearable will actually teach you how to improve your health and let you look good doing it.
Today, Caeden, a maker of luxury headphones, launched pre-orders for its Sona wearable wristband. Designed for men and women, the band comes in leather and silicon and detects heart rate, monitors activity, and calculates calorie burn, like most wearables on the market. But rather than focus on fitness, Sona is geared toward understanding stress levels and regulating a person’s autonomic nervous system, which controls breathing, heart rate, and a person’s fight or flight response. To do that, Sona measures heart rate variability, or the difference in timing between heartbeats.
Heart rate variability is mostly frequently used by athletes to help them determine how well they’re able to recover from activity and whether their body is overstressed and therefore not in a good position to work out. It also was an early metric for monitoring astronauts health in space.
In the 1960’s, when Russia was sending cosmonauts into space, there wasn’t an effective way to measure their health. The only signal that could be sent down was an electrocardiogram signal — a heartbeat.
“So the scientists, they had to play with what they have, so they started to look at all possibilities, researching the heart rate and what can be done out of this,” said Bronya Vaschillo, a physician, and wife of Evgeny Vaschillo, one of the scientists in charge of monitoring Russian cosmonauts during their space voyage in 1968. Vaschillo and his team developed a test wherein cosmonauts would view their heart rate variability waveforms and try to keep those waveforms stable. When the cosmonauts were able to handle this task, the scientists realized they should try giving cosmonauts a heart rate variability goal to replicate in an effort to improve their health. The cosmonauts succeeded in hitting these benchmarks, as well.
The trick to controlling the frequency between heartbeats appeared to be regulated breathing. Recognizing this, in the 1970’s and 80’s Vaschillo went on to develop a system of paced breathing at a specific resonance frequency that would exercise a person’s internal reflexes and strengthen their ability to stay calm. He took that research and began training people working in high-stress environments, like fighter pilots, submarine operators, and eventually, the Russian Olympic wrestling team. Now, he’s helping to bring these techniques to the U.S. workforce. Vaschillo is advising Caeden on how to incorporate his system of breathing into the app as a way to help people understand both their own stress levels and how to avoid burnout.
“That’s where this breathing meditation comes in,” said Nora Levinson, cofounder and chief executive of Caeden. The app features six 15-minute guided meditations as well as a silent timed meditation. To help users maintain even breathing, the app shows an expanding and diminishing circle. Sona users will be able to track their stress levels over time and see the way that the breathing exercise affects their ability to remain calm.
Caeden’s Sona band will cost $129 for early adopters and comes with both leather and silicon bands. Once the company stops accepting pre-orders, the band will be priced at $199. Sona is expected to start shipping in March of next year.