This autumn, when the new software for the Apple Watch (watchOS 3) is launched, along with a new interface and extra watch faces there’s an app called Breathe.
Unlike the macOS and iOS 10 releases which have public beta programs, watchOS is for developers only, but the Independent recently tried out the new app behind closed doors.
Breathe is an app that continues Apple’s focus on health and fitness, an emphasis that the Watch front and centre with its Activity and Workout apps to count your steps and calories during the day.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has said, “One day, we will look back and wonder: how can I ever have gone without the Watch? Because the holy grail of the Watch is being able to monitor more and more of what’s going on in the body.”
Gadgets and tech news in pictures
In time for Wimbledon, Virgin Active is trialling ‘The Drone-ovic’ – a drone that drops tennis balls from above to achieve that perfect serve at its Northwood club tennis courts
CPG Photography Ltd
Voice assistants are coming for your home
A year from now, Google, Amazon and Apple might be listening in on your living room. And you’ll be glad of it.
All three of those companies are working on or have announced voice assistants that sit in people’s houses and talk to them. The boxes – which function as speakers, and look like them too – are meant do everything from asking questions to operating various parts of peoples’ houses
North Korean Facebook set up and immediately hacked
An imitation of Facebook apparently set up for North Koreans has already been hacked and sent offline, just days after it was discovered. Internet company Dyn Research found the site – hosted in North Korea and created to look almost exactly like Facebook – and discovered that it was accessible for anyone in the world. But days later a college student got access to the site because it had been secured with just a default password
Bring broken smartphone back to life – as a robot
Do you have an old broken smartphone lying around the house somewhere? Then why not turn it into a robot? That’s exactly what YouTuber Mehdi Sadaghdar did in a recent video, after his efforts to bring a destroyed phone back to life disastrously failed. Using the phone’s vibrator, a coin battery, a simple switch, a few wires and the bristly part of a toothbrush, he managed to make a simple little toy that can skitter around a tabletop as long as the battery last
Detachable plane cabin
A Ukrainian inventor has proposed building airliners with detachable passenger cabins that could separate from the rest of the plane and parachute safely to the ground in the event of an emergency
FA announces it will host the Emirates FA Cup video game tournament
The FA has announced that for the first time ever it will host the inaugural Emirates FA Cup gaming tournament, with video game fans from across the world invited to compete for glory at Wembley Stadium connected by EE. Early rounds will take place in iconic locations in the stadium such as The Royal Box, the changing rooms and the players’ tunnel, with the two finalists set to play the virtual final using Wembley Stadium’s 82 foot screens as they sit in the centre circle. Gamers of varying ability will descend upon Wembley Stadium as the home of football transforms into an epic gaming colosseum set to turn heads and sweat palms in equal measure
The FA via Getty Images
Oculus Rift release date
Oculus has said that it is about to open pre-orders for its Rift virtual reality headset. Some have claimed that the hardware will be the device that will bring virtual reality into the mainstream. And it will start being available from 6 January 2016, the company has said. The company hasn’t said when the headsets will actually start arriving, or how much they will cost. It isn’t clear whether the company intends to announce more details before pre-orders begin
iPhone stock apps can be removed by just putting them into special folder
A new trick shows a quick way of getting rid of the stock apps that might be cluttering up your iPhone screen — at least for a while. The iPhone comes with a range of apps that are stuck on the phone, and can’t be deleted like others. While some are key to the phone — like the Phone app itself — others like Stocks are less well-regarded. But the new trick shows how you can hide those unused stock apps with just a quick trick using some folders
CES 2016: Four big things set to be revealed
The CES 2016 gadget show is about to kick off, and nearly the entire technology industry has descended on Las Vegas to try and show off the future. Every year, companies and technologists attempt to show that they have seen what’s coming and that they will be there to offer it. Every year, a lot of people get it wrong. This year’s expectations are as big as ever. Every year, CES unofficially gets a big theme that everything’s supposed to be about — this year that’s virtual reality. There is also future for cars, smart home and wearables
Terrorists could use drones to attack planes and spread propaganda
A government counter-terrorism adviser has warned that terrorists could use commercially available drones to attack passenger planes. Detective Chief Inspector Colin Smith, a security expert and adviser to the Home Office Centre for Applied Science and Technology, warned that small quadcopter drones could easily be used by terrorists for attacks and propaganda purposes
Goggle-Eyed Lemurs watch TV as part of their reintroduction to the wild
Port Lympne Reserve in Kent, UK, has installed Sony Bravia 4K TVs into its lemur and langur enclosures to show life-like footage to its primates as part of its ‘Back to the Wild’ programme. The charity will trial TV watching on Sony’s 4K TVs as part of this programme in a bid to make langurs more familiar with the new environment
Mikael Buck / Sony
Uber has added a lift-sharing feature to its app in London, allowing people to share their taxi with a stranger in return for a reduced fair. Users will be given 25 per cent off their journey if they say they will let up to two other passengers share their car. Drivers will then receive a message telling them that they’ll be picking up more than one fare, and can plan their route accordingly. London is the second European country to get the feature, after Paris. It was first launched in San Francisco and now most people who use the app do so with the feature
Attempt to build world’s biggest Rubik’s cube ends in disaster
An attempt to build the world’s biggest Rubik’s cube ended in disaster when the puzzle exploded as it was turned for the first time. One of the masterminds behind Coren Puzzle, a YouTube channel dedicated to custom puzzles, live-streamed the final assembly of the 22×22 cube. The video was the culmination of seven months of construction, which included a month of deliberation on how to build the mechanism at the centre of the device
New battery chip could let phones charge in minutes
The maker of a new chip claims that it could reduce the charging times of phones to a few minutes, and could prevent dangerous explosions. The tiny chip could be embedded into batteries of all sizes and monitor how healthy and charged they are. That in turn would mean that the batteries would become much safer and quicker to charge, according to the scientist that developed it. Unhealthy lithium-ion batteries can be at risk of exploding or catching fire, as well as gradually losing their capacity so that they run out more quickly. Those problems may become even more important as people move towards electric cars or other vehicles
Facebook on iPhone gets new fast-loading Instant Articles
If you’ve noticed articles on Facebook loading a little quicker recently, that’s because the new Instant Articles have been launched to all iPhone users. Instant Articles load up to 10 times quicker than a regular article, and have some enriched features – such as unobtrusive autoplay videos, zoomable high-definition images and interactive maps
Halo 5 patch
Gamers looking forward to playing Halo 5: Guardians on its release on 27 October 2015 will have to wait to download a 9GB day one patch before the game’s multiplayer mode can run properly. Those without the patch won’t even be able to play multiplayer at all until it’s downloaded, in yet another case of a blockbuster game needing a patch on the day of launch
New HTC Desire 626 handset launch
HTC has launched its latest Desire 626 handset with the Sense 7 software which automatically detects whether you’re at work, at home or on-the-go and alters its theme to suit your location. This advanced technology intelligently analyses your favourite photos to modify the look and feel of your apps, allowing you to modify the colour scheme and backgrounds – the ultimate in personalisation
Nasa confirms Mars water discovery
Nasa has announced that it has found evidence of flowing water on Mars. Scientists have long speculated that Recurring Slope Lineae — or dark patches — on Mars were made up of briny water but the new findings prove that those patches are caused by liquid water, which it has established by finding hydrated salts.
Customers wait in line at the Apple Store in Paris to get their hands on the iPhone 6s
Several hundred camped outside the London store in Covent Garden. The 6s will have new features like a vastly improved camera and a pressure-sensitive “3D Touch” display
Bloodhound SSC: The most powerful ever made is shown off to the public
The car is displayed at Downing Street, when the team visited David Cameron to demonstrate the project
Lunar eclipse threatens Nasa technology
Artist’s rendering of Nasa’s LRO spacecraft, which will have to withstand a rapid drop in temperature during an upcoming lunar eclipse that could lead to it shutting down
Mobile phone bills could rocket up after Ofcom announced that the fees it charges to phone operators will be trebled
The regulator will now charge far more to phone companies for using the mobile spectrum — and though it says that fee will not be passed on to customers, experts have said that prices are likely to go up
New iPhone 6s rose gold
Apple has released a bright pink new iPhone 6s — likely the only way that you’ll be able to tell that someone has the new handset. The company released the new phone with much fanfare, but almost all of the changes — a new camera and pressure-sensitive display — were on the inside. The only new noticeable addition to the phone’s look is the very pink rose gold colour, and a tiny “S” on the back. The new handsets will be released on September 25
Apple has launched a huge new iPad, which it hopes can bring the tablet to offices and designers. But it unveiled it with an Apple-designed stylus — an idea that was famously mocked by late Apple founder Steve Jobs
Apple has introduced the new Apple TV
Apple has introduced the new Apple Pencil
Breathe aims to improve your health, reduce tension and even improve your sleep, in just 60 seconds.
Breathing, we know, is a key to a greater sense of calm. This app is simple enough. It encourages you to breathe in and out slowly for a minute. When you open the app, the words you see tell you what to expect: “Quiet your mind. Relax your body. Be in the moment.” As Brits, we may prefer the first word to be quieten, but you get the idea.
You choose the time you want to breathe for, with a default of one minute, though can do more. When you start the app it stays dark for a second or so to let you focus. Then a circle of blue-green petals appear, growing as you inhale, shrinking as you breathe out.
The Apple Watch also has a haptic response. This is the subtle vibration the Watch can make, which really feels like someone is gently tapping your wrist. The tapping measures out the inhale, falling silent as you breathe out.
At the end of the minute the app shows your heart rate. When I tried it, I genuinely felt calmer and more relaxed. My heart rate had dropped, too, to 54 beats per minute.
I talked to Dr John Denninger, Director of Research at Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital about the science the app taps into.
“A lot of this goes back to Dr Herbert Benson’s work in the late sixties and seventies which showed that techniques involving breathing do bring about a physiological state that is opposite to the stress response. That’s where your heart beats fast, where you tremble, the fight-or-flight stuff that gets you away from the proverbial tiger. There seems to be an ability of the body to enter an opposite state when you focus on breathing.”
But is a minute really enough? “We have a number of programmes for stress management and one element is the mini relaxation that takes a minute or so to do a breathing exercise. It’s helpful to use it during the day to stay mindful of stress. For instance, there’s a group of medical professionals at Massachusetts General Hospital doing palliative care, dealing with people at the end of their lives. It’s difficult work to do. We ran a program for these doctors and we recommended 20-minute sessions once or twice a day, but the group found the most helpful thing was to do these mini-sessions before going in to see a patient.”
That fight-or-flight response was there for a reason, surely? Dr Denninger pointed out that we don’t spend as much time running from tigers these days. “If there are negative health results from the fight-or-flight response the body doesn’t care, it’s about saving your life right now. But many of the threats we used to face no longer apply. So stress responses don’t need to be active – a nasty email from the boss can cause the same response, but you don’t need it. And in the long term, chronic stress can cause health problems. Any way to lower the body’s response to chronic stress is good. Ultimately it may lead to greater resilience.”
I also talked to Jay Blahnik, a fitness guru and Apple’s Director of Fitness and Health technologies, about the app. “Taking a moment to do some deep breathing will feel good, will quiet your mind, help relax your body and better manage everyday stress.”
The app will be free when it arrives with the next update of software for the Apple Watch, in the autumn.
The Apple Watch already has a somewhat addictive Activity app. It consists of three rings with different meanings and the aim is to close each ring every day.
There’s red, which involves hitting your chosen number of active calories, green, which completes when you’re briskly active for at least half an hour and blue, which responds to your standing up and moving for at least a minute each hour so you’re not sitting all the time. Closing the rings has become a habit for many Watch users, apparently.
Breathe could be another winner, a little, quickly habitual revelation that subtly makes a difference.
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