BrightBeat: Effortlessly Influencing Breathing for Cultivating Calmness and Focus

Ghandeharioun, A., Picard, R."BrightBeat: Effortlessly Influencing Breathing for Cultivating Calmness and Focus," Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems. ACM, Denver, May 2017.


While technology is usually associated with causing stress, technology also has the potential to bring about calm. In particular, breathing usually speeds up with higher stress, but it can be slowed through a manipulation, and in so doing, it can help the person lower their stress and improve their focus. This paper introduces BrightBeat, a set of seamless visual and auditory interventions that look like respiratory biofeedback, rhythmically oscillating, but that are tuned to appear with a slower speed, with the aim of slowing a stressed computer user's breathing and, consequently, bringing a sense of focus and calmness. These interventions were designed to run easily on commonplace personal electronic devices and to not require any focused attention in order to be effective. We have run a randomized placebo-controlled trial and examined both objective and subjective measures of impact with N=32 users undergoing work tasks. BrightBeat significantly influenced slower breathing, had a lasting effect, improved self-reported calmness and focus, and was highly preferred for future use.

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