Wearable gadgets are popping up on store shelves and crowdfunding sites tend to focus on physical activity. But two startups presenting this week at digital health accelerator Rock Health’s fifth demo day gave a little window into how wearable devices could make a difference in a broader range of day-to-day activities.
“The average American spends 16 percent of his day moving around. And we’ve gotten good at measuring, gamifying and using technology to help [that],” said Jonathan Palley, co-founder of Spire. “But what about the other 84 percent of the day?”
Spire, a Fitbit-sized (see disclosure) clip-on device, aims to help people relieve stress and improve productivity by monitoring their breathing. It gives people a record of their respiratory patterns, as well as alerts and real-time guidance on how to control their emotions and stress through breathing exercises.
Palley said they’ve been testing the device’s potential in the workplace with LinkedIn and, in one of the pilots, 75 percent of Spire-wearing employees said it improved their productivity.
As we reported last week, another startup BreathResearch is also planning to bring a breath-monitoring device to market, But that company is emphasizing the fitness- and health-related benefits with a sensor-equipped headset (that you wouldn’t wear all day), while Spire’s less obtrusive device wants to provide more ongoing support and stress feedback.
Already, the company said that it has raised $1 million and was trending on AngelList last week. It plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign in the next few months and then bring the product to market next year.
Augmedix, another Rock Health company, is also pushing into the wearables market with health-centric applications for Google Glass. Their focus? The physician.
Co-founder Ian Shakil said doctors spend more than a quarter of their day on the computer, “feeding the beast” of administrative work and documentation. He didn’t give too many details about their services, but said the overall goal is to “re-humanize the doctor-patient relationship” by using Google Glass to cut down on the amount of time doctors must spend at their computers and boost their time spent with patients.
As we’ve covered before, one could imagine that Google Glass apps that leverage the device’s audio and video capabilities could allow doctors to digitize and recall patient information as they conduct exams. Startups like Augmedix will have to overcome privacy and security hurdles, but Shakil said patients are already indicating acceptance of the new technology. In tests including 300 patients, he said, patients were “perfectly okay” with Google Glass-wearing doctors 99 percent of the time.
Several other startups presenting at Rock Health’s fifth demo day also shared some big milestones and impressive products. Lift Labs, a company that makes “smart” spoons that enable people with Parkinson’s disease or other tremor-causing conditions to eat more easily, said it had raised $1 million. And ThriveOn, a mobile mental health app that provides remote coaching and algorithmically-created custom programs, said its services would be used by 40 universities, including Harvard and the University of Michigan. (You can see a full list of the companies in Rock Health’s fifth class here.)
For its part, Rock Health said it had created a partnership with AngelList to create a special fund, which will enable accredited investors to fund each of the companies in their latest class of startups online. Over the past three years, the accelerator said its companies have raised more than $60 million from investors including Khosla Ventures, Founder Collective and First Round Capital.
Disclosure: Fitbit is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.