Monday, June 3, 2013

Gadgetwise Blog: Finding Inner Peace, iPhone in Hand

The Inner Balance app from HeartMath. The Inner Balance app from HeartMath.

HeartMath, a creator of science-based solutions to reduce stress, recently turned to a stress inducer, technology, to create a tool to help users achieve serenity.

HeartMath may seem like an odd name for a stress reliever; the word “math” can cause some people to break into a sweat. But its new app, called Inner Balance, is a better indicator of what the company is offering.

The app, available free for Apple iOS devices, provides instructions and feedback on techniques for breathing and focusing. It works with the company’s sensor, which costs $99.

Clip the sensor to your earlobe, and Inner Balance reads your pulse and develops a pattern to help you synchronize your heart and breathing rhythms. A typical session takes about three minutes.

The sensor does not have a Lightning connector, so it is not compatible with the iPhone 5. It does include an adapter for other iOS devices, so I downloaded Inner Balance on my iPad and prepared for my journey to inner peace.

I found the app simple to use and remarkably soothing. Once I focused my attention on the rainbow flower on the screen, I was able to match my breathing to its pulsating pattern. After only a few minutes, I felt calmer and more rested.

After a session, you get lots of charts, graphs and numbers (again, math). But the app does a thorough job of tracking your progress and providing goals for improvement without feeling too New Agey.

In fact, HeartMath went a long way to make Inner Balance appear scientific. A little too far, because the interface felt technical and cold, like something you might encounter in a doctor’s office. I don’t need Deepak Chopra whispering positive affirmations in my ear, but some calming music or even white noise would help me relax.

The HeartMath app and sensor can be beneficial tools for reducing stress, but with dozens of competitors it doesn’t feel worth the cost. Heck, you could just close your eyes and count to 10, free.

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