Everybody in Silicon Valley is obsessed with mindfulness.
Its alleged benefits are many: Less stress. More efficient work habits. Better performance in the bedroom.
Know what else Silicon Valley is obsessed with? Measurables. Which begs the question: Is mindfulness measurable?
It is according to Spire, a new pebble-sized device that is meant to give you updates on your stress levels throughout the day. So we put it to the test in the most stressful environment we could think of: a shooting range.
Pt. 1: How It Works
Spire attaches to your belt and tracks your breathing. It then sends you feedback through an iOS app. The display is stylish, and rates you on Calm, Focus, Activity and Tension.
Calm and Focus seem largely one in the same, and that’s reflected by the fact that you tend to receive analogous feedback on both. Activity determines whether you’re walking or moving, and Tension means your breathing is erratic.
For the most part this works. If you’re tense, the app alerts you and suggests breathing exercises and guided meditations. These also work. Over time, you won’t even notice you’re wearing the device.
Pt. 2: We Shoot the Guns
The first section of the Oak Tree Gun Club is a shotgun shooting range. Looks like a driving range, has a higher quotient of gun nuts and decibel levels. As soon as we started unloading, the app sensed stress and reminded us to take a breath.
Next was a booth where we could shoot Berettas, Sigs and Glocks. Again, Spire gave tips on breathing. This helped as we squeezed the trigger and aimed at targets down-range. Our instructor took notice, giving “attaboys” and pats on the shoulder.
Pt. 3: But Did It Actually Work?
Look, we’ve told you before that being a more conscious breather can make you perform (mentally, physically, situationally) at a higher level. But breathing is involuntary — and “awareness” of it isn’t an instinctive process.
So while Spire isn’t necessarily telling you anything you couldn’t already be telling yourself (“I’m holding a gun; I need to take a few deep breaths to calm down”), it helps raise self-awareness in a way that is very difficult to achieve from within. And that, in turn, translates to better focus.
If anything, the current generation of Spire seems a little over-elaborate. We hope future generations will be fine-tuned, smaller and feature a simpler, more minimal UX.
As for the gun range? That definitely works. Highly recommended.