Mindfulness technology, analysed: The devices helping us switch off

Oculus Rift

As consumers become increasingly connected, a counter-desire is emerging: to switch off, and escape the demands of our devices. Meditation and mindfulness practices are growing in importance around the world, as consumers search for ways to retreat, relax and grow. Rather than embarking on a full digital detox, however, a new wave of apps and experiences present the idea that inner peace can be achieved simply by interacting with technology in a different, more thoughtful way.

Headspace offers meditation by app; the company’s free Take 10 app suggests simple mindfulness techniques throughout the day, which are designed to take no more than ten minutes at a time. Valued at £25 million last year, Headspace’s apps have been downloaded more than a million times, by people in 150 different countries. Following this success, a range of competing relaxation apps have emerged: Breathing Zone uses therapeutic breathing exercises to help regulate blood pressure, while Inner Balance combines calming visuals, a mood journal and stress-tracking in a bid to unite heart with mind.


Chill-out website Relaax.in offers bite-sized digital vacations, so that stressed-out workers can take quick breaks without leaving their computer. The website is split into images: you pick the picture that appeals to you and watch it as it slowly moves across the screen, accompanied by calming music. The more you focus on the image, and let go of other thoughts, the more details will be revealed to you.

For those seeking a more immersive, physical mindfulness experience, artist Lia Chavez staged a Meditation Nightclub in Las Vegas earlier this year. Visitors were given EEG headsets, which measured their brain activity and presented it back to them as a combination of sound and visuals. By focusing on their mind and training their thoughts, they could control their own, personal nightclub experience.

Emerging technologies are also being harnessed to aid meditation. Using the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, Guided Meditation By VR presents users with a range of different virtual environments in which to meditate, including a sun-dappled forest, the top of a canyon, and a Japanese garden with cherry blossoms in full bloom.

New apps encourage mindfulness in time spent with loved ones. Moment tracks how long you spend on your phone each day and alerts you when you reach your pre-set limit; Shhhh automatically turns off notifications when you are with family or friends, sending a note to your contacts that explains why they won’t receive an instant reply.

The long-term impact of this mindfulness technology will include a greater awareness of the need for poetry across all digital activities. One of the most significant features of the Apple Watch is that it offers a new, tactile way to digitally communicate with your friendship circle: you can send a tap, or a portion of your heartbeat, with a single press of its touchscreen. More intimate than an email or a text message, this idea signals a way forward for quieter technology that gives users more headspace; not just for 10 minutes a day, but throughout their lives.

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