You can’t always calm yourself down in the middle of a work day by doing yoga. But Cindy Gu, founder and CEO of Vitali, wants to support you with the next best thing: a smart sports bra.
The bra tracks key stress indicators like breathing, posture, and heart rate variability (HRV), emitting vibrations when it senses your body tensing. The startup is officially unveiling its product today on Kickstarter and hopes to raise $50,000 in a crowdfunding campaign.
The Vitali bra has several built-in fabric sensors that track your upper thoracic region, enabling it to monitor your posture. The device, dubbed the “Gem”, sits on the left pectoral and runs algorithms that recognize breathing patterns in relation to stress by detecting subtle changes in the upper diaphragm.
All of that data is then fed via Bluetooth into the Vitali app (available on both iOS and Android), which gives real-time feedback and sends out gentle vibrations throughout the day to remind users to sit up straight or take a deep breath before the stress settles in.
“The body reveals stressful symptoms before the mind realizes you are stressed,” said Gu, in an interview with VentureBeat. “So if the sensors detect stress-related physical patterns, the bra gives you a nudge to relax before you actually realize you are stressed.” This mind-body dynamic is something other brands may be missing out on by simply focusing on fitness tracking.
There are other female-oriented wearables out there, such as Bellabeat, the smart jewelry that tracks breathing, sleep, and monthly cycles, or OmSignal, which also sells a smart sports bra. However, OmSignal is designed for running, according to a Vitali spokesperson, with a “push score” metrics to coach women to run better. The Vitali bra is designed to be worn anytime, anywhere.
Gu and her first employee, Adrian Wong, who is a hardware engineer, spent four months in Shenzhen, China, a place often referred to as the Silicon Valley of hardware. They joined the HAX accelerator program, where they received support in product development and $100,000 in funding. When asked why she is launching a Kickstarter rather than seek capital from VCs, Gu replied: “It was difficult to approach VCs without any traction or metrics to show.”
This is what she hopes to get from the Kickstarter campaign. Prices for the Vitali bra begin at $129 on the crowdfunding platform, with shipping scheduled for February 2018. If the campaign is successful and garners sufficient interest, Gu wants to start selling her product for a retail price of $249.
Founded in 2016, Vitali is based in Vancouver, Canada.