When Cindy Wu was a student at The University of British Columbia, she began to suffer from depression. One thing that helped improve her health was yoga. “It was like a cure for me,” the former mechanical engineering student said.
Wu eventually became a yoga instructor herself. Then she did something even more ambitious: She built a smart sports bra to help take the health benefits of her favorite exercise off the mat.
Vitali is a smart wearable equipped with sensors that can measure vital signs like heart rate variability, (HRV) a key indicator of stress. It also has flexible, washable fabric sensors that can monitor your chest’s movements.
The device is is particularly noteworthy for a number of reasons. For one, it’s designed specifically for women. It’s also ambitious and unusual for a tech company to bet on an undergarment, even if it’s one worn for athletic purposes.
Most importantly, its sleek enough to be worn by users deterred by clunky wristbands and clip-on devices, like Wu herself. “It’s just not in my style to be wearing those silicon wristbands,” she said.
How it works
All of the bra’s electronics are centralized in a small, stone-looking device, which Vitali Wear calls a “gem.” You can pop the gem out easily, making the bra machine washable. It sits below your left collarbone on the front of the device.
If the Vitali senses a sudden uptick in your breathing, it can nudge you gently via a series of gentle vibrations.
The hope is then you’ll be able to match your breath to the pace of the buzzes, helping bring your inhales and exhales back down to a more normal rhythm.
If you want to use the vibrations to meditate, you can turn them on manually using an accompanying app, which can also be used to track your progress over time.
The device connects to your phone via Bluetooth, but you don’t need to constantly hang on your phone to have Vitali work. The bra can function without needing to be paired to your phone.
The bra also lets you know when you’re slouching. By default, it “taps” (sends a small vibration) once to say you’re hunched and twice to remind you to take a deep breath.
The gem comes with its own charger. It takes about two hours to fully juice up the battery, which lasts two days. “We’re working on improving the battery life,” Wu said.
I found the gem to be a little clunky, but overall remarkably nonintrusive. It’s easy to remove, which makes me slightly worried about losing it. In the future, I could see Wu offering replacement gems.
For now, Vitali comes in black and white options. It will retail for $249 when it’s released on the market, but you can get it for $159 now by contributing to the Kickstarter campaign.
There’s also two early bird options that lets you snag the bra for $129 and $139, depending on when you pledge.
The only downside is the bras aren’t expected to ship until February next year.