Product Review: Foci.ai

Focus is what’s important

By Relena Sei

Everyone who works with me knows that I am a huge fan of anything that can increase efficiency and focus at the office. The premise of FOCI, a wearable crowdfunded on Indiegogo, is that our breathing pattern is correlated with our cognitive state, and can be used as an indication of whether we are focused or distracted. 

To get started, I went through the FOCI manual, which reads like an inspirational booklet with to-dos and checklists. Setting up FOCI must be done when the user isn’t busy, as the first step–charging the device–is followed immediately by the second step, pairing with the app. This must take place within 30 minutes of connecting the device to power. Once the FOCI is set up, it’s clipped to a belt at the waist so that it can record breathing patterns.

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According to the instructions, FOCI needs about two days to learn a user’s breathing profile. During this period, excessive movement interferes with FOCI’s machine learning, meaning that there can only be limited laughing, walking, speaking or meetings. Unfortunately, I spend most of my time taking meetings and brainstorming with my colleagues. As a result, the calibration period took about two weeks. 

Once FOCI completed the machine learning stage, it worked exactly as promised. In fact, once, it was sitting silently on my waist until my co-founder cracked a joke. Even though I tried to ignore him and focus on my work, I was definitely distracted, and the FOCI started buzzing.  

After registering a distraction, the app uses a musical beat to guide users to stabilize their breathing with two short inhales and one long exhale. The beat, mixed with the sound of water and birds chirping, can be quite calming. However, as soon as you’re back in focus mode, the app goes silent until the next time you get distracted.All in all, I would say that this is a nifty gadget to try out if you are patient enough to get over the initial setup hump. –RS

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