The Foci is a small device developed by British company Tinylogics. You simply attach it to your trousers, and it can calculate from your breathing patterns how concentrated, tired or stressed you are. You can use this information to learn how to focus longer on your work. The Foci has been on crowdfunding website Kickstarter since last week. The investment required was raised in just a few hours.
Even after you’ve turned off all the notifications and other distractions on your mobile phone, it’s still hard to put it down. The same applies to social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – they are all addictive, and have made it more difficult for us to focus properly for longer periods on our work.
However, help is at hand, even if we have to admit that it relies on even more technology. The Foci is a tiny device that becomes almost invisible once attached to your belt. It measures the movements of your diaphragm, which plays a central role in breathing.
Software on the device then analyses these movements, and rapidly determines whether you’re focussed, distracted, or tired. Your mental state is then shown in the form of a coloured blob on your smartphone by an app. The idea behind the colour is to remind the user to stay focussed, or refocus.
There is solid science behind this new gadget, claim the creators in an article on FastCompany. It’s based on the correlation between your breathing and your mental state. When you’re totally relaxed, your breathing slows down, but when you’re focussed on your work it speeds up and becomes very regular. Stress speeds up your breathing and makes it superficial.
The device uses machine learning to recognise a wearer’s specific breathing patterns, needing about four hours before it’s completely set up. During this period, the device also learns how to recognise and eliminate environmental noise. This noise is also the reason that the makers recommend only using the device when sitting down. When you’re standing or walking around, your body movements interfere too much with the measurements.
The Foci is a paradox. The makers hope this device will tackle an issue that many of us will recognise: the difficulty of concentrating deeply in a world of smartphones, computers, notifications and continuous connection. But is even more technology the answer?
Imagine, for example, that you’re sitting comfortably at your computer in deep thought, with a Foci clipped to your belt. The colour of the blob on your phone will tell you that you’re focussing well, but the only way to check is to look away from your computer screen. Surely that’s just another distraction?
The makers have obviously faced this question lots of times already, and have an answer prepared on their Kickstarter page. "That's something I recognise from experience," writes an employee. "As soon as I look at my smartphone, the blob changes from yellow to grey, meaning I’m distracted. But if I secretly peek out of the corner of my eye, I stay focussed!”
In the end, it's all about your behaviour and how you can change it for the better. If you’re aware that you tend to go on social media when you are tired, you can enter it in the Foci app. The next time the Foci recognises that you’re tired, you’ll be offered alternatives for your work-evasive behaviour.
It’s also only normal that you get tired during a day's work. The Foci can help you to recognise your specific patterns in this respect, allowing you to schedule simple chores which require less concentration at times when you are less focussed.
There are clearly a lot of people who can’t wait to get their hands on a Foci, because the goal of the Kickstarter campaign was achieved within five hours. Anybody interested can now register for one of the first devices, as it is now certain that it will go into production.
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