When we talk about health, we’re not just thinking about celery sticks and running shoes. True wellness occurs at the intersection of body and mind. That’s why Phyode, a Mountain View, CA-based tech company, invented the W/Me wristband. This innovative quantified-self gadget tracks the user’s mental state and agility, breathing, and heart rate to deliver a report on his or her overall health.
What’s the Deal?
Hold your horses before writing off the W/Me as another run-of-the- mill fitness tracker. Most fitness devices on the market right now (Fitbit, Jawbone, Nike FuelBand, etc.) use fairly basic sensors called accelerometers and altimeters that basically work like souped-up pedometers. Phyode’s sensor is a bit different. The company’s co-founders, Daniel Weng and Michael Li, worked with a team of engineers and medical researchers to create a sensor sensitive enough to monitor the user’s autonomic nervous system (ANS). Weng and Li believe that keeping track of the ANS is a much more holistic, whole-body method to measure health than, say, looking at heart rate or blood pressure Dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system predicts the development of the metabolic syndrome. Licht CM, de Geus EJ, Penninx BW. Department of Psychiatry, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2013 April 3..
The medical-grade sensor (which they’ve dubbed the “life spectrum analyzer”) registers electrical impulses from the heart. The W/Me device takes this data and creates three scores: mental state, agility, and ANS age. Mental state can be either passive, excitable, pessimistic, anxious, or ideally, balanced somewhere in the middle. Agility score measures how easily the body adapts to changes in the environment; a lower score equals lower stress. Lastly, ANS age calculates the approximate age of the user’s ANS based on breathing, stress, and other factors.
In addition to the wellness sensors and measurements, the W/Me wristband contains some bonus features. Because breathing influences the ANS, the iPhone app that syncs up to the wristband includes a “breathing coach” function so users can improve their rhythmic breathing to optimize health. The wristband also buzzes when the connected iPhone receives a notification (so you don’t even have to look to know if someone’s “liked” your latest Instagram photo), can be used as a remote shutter for a smartphone camera, and can even help find a missing phone. The W/Me also lets users check in on Facebook and sync their data with the iCloud (a remote data storage service).
Is it Legit?
Maybe. It’s no surprise that the quantified self movement is taking off in leaps and bounds — at Greatist, we’ve reviewed products like the Melon focus-tracker, BodyMedia LINK armband, Nike+ FuelBand, and plenty of other fitness and health trackers and gadgets. But the W/Me device seems to be the first of its kind in terms of looking at whole-body health. The company is currently hosting a Kickstarter fundraising campaign to procure enough funding to start production and has nearly reached its goal of $100,000 in less than two weeks. With its state-of-the-art sensors and holistic approach to wellness, W/Me could represent the next wave of the quantified self movement.
On the other hand, it very well could be a case of too much of a good thing. From the long-winded description on the Kickstarter page, it’s hard to tell whether or not the transmitted information is actually actionable. For better or for worse, many people don’t understand how the autonomic nervous system affects health. The signals and impulses that the W/Me band picks up are so subtle that they might be difficult to comprehend. Plus, the wristband contains so many extra bells and whistles — Facebook! Camera shutter! Buzzing notifications! — that seem more confusing than helpful. Hopefully after the Kickstarter campaign is over, the developers at Phyode will be able to streamline and tinker with the W/Me wristband to create a product as user-friendly as it is innovative.