Quantified butt. The Internet of chairs. An unactivity tracker. Jokes aside, the Darma cushion might be the smartest thing you ever sit on. Unlike your smartphone, it can't butt-dial anyone, but Darma can dial up stats about how much time you spend in a chair and how good your posture is while you're there.
Look, we all know we should be sitting less--Darma calls sitting "the smoking of our generation." (So don't even think about smoking while sitting.) But you might not be ready to drop thousands on the world's fanciest standing desk, or hack together a cheap IKEA-sourced version. You might be after tracking your sitting time with Darma, the Bluetooth-enabled cushion that you can toss on any chair. Its purpose is to make you more mindful of not only how much time you spent sitting, but also your posture and stress level.
Darma works with two sensors. One detects micromovements that the software uses to determine your heart rate and respitory rate. Yes, it can tell your heart rate through your butt. In our demo, the app took a while to be able to return a number--it helps if you can sit as still as possible while it's checking. But eventually, we were able to get a pulse by just sitting there, no wearable devices required. You can't feel the sensors either--they're only 1 millimeter thick, and the cushion itself is totally comfortable.
Once the app determines your pulse and breathing rate, software algorithms create a numerical stress level. If you're starting to get stressed out, but you feel like you're too busy to take a break, Darma's companion iOS app can lead you through a one-minute guided meditation instead. Its timed to your current breathing rate, then helps slow you down, so at the end of one minute you'll be a little more relaxed.
Darma also contains a pressure sensor, so the app's Posture tab can show you if you're sitting upright or slouching forward, back, or to the side. You can get reminders when your posture starts to slip, as well as notifications when you should stand up and take a break.
Assuming the software kinks in the build we saw can be worked out, Darma has some advantages over wearable heart monitors and the Lumo Bluetooth posture sensor: You don't have to wear it. Although it will be a little strange to have to get in the habit of charging the battery in a cushion that you fart on. As with any activity tracker, a smart cushion can be useful if it improves your mindfulness enough to affect your choices over time.
Darma is part of the HAXLR8R accelerator for hardware startups, and will be launching a Kickstarter sometime in May. The final pricing for the Darma cushion is yet to be determined, but its creator, Dr. Junhao Hu, told us the company hopes to price it around $150.