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CES: HeartMath's Inner Balance helps you find your center

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HeartMath is a company that's been dealing with emotional health and stress relief for several years. While I don't go in for measuring one's emotional state with a gadget, I have to say that visiting HeartMath's booth here at CES 2013 was very disarming. They sat me down, and plugged a clip on my ear that was connected to an iPhone. This is HeartMath's new Inner Balance device, an iPhone-enabled heart rate variability detector that works in conjunction with HeartMath's app to try and reach some sort of emotional center.

There is some science here. The ear clip does monitor heart rate information (although accuracy can't really be expected from a measurement like that). When you begin a "session," you're asked to choose your current mood from a wheel of smiley faces. The app then goes into a "breathing" mode and displays a graphic meant to help you breathe easier and relax. As time goes on, the app tracks a few status figures from your body, and fills in a circle with red, blue or green segments, depending on how much more relaxed your body is getting.

My circle started red, and then went blue and green pretty quickly, as I focused on my breathing the iPhone's display. I must admit, despite what seemed a lot like pseudoscience to me (though HeartMath's rep shrugged off any suggestions that this was anything but legit), the breathing did seem to help calm me, even on the noisy floor of CES.

Once I was calm, the display stayed green, showing that I was making progress. At the end of the session, I was asked to choose from another wheel of smilies, and I choose a face slightly more smiley, indicating that the device had worked.

You can log a journal entry for each session, describing how you felt and how it worked. You can also track your progress over time, seeing if the device makes you feel calmer from point to point and session to session.

Obviously, there are no guarantees here. Like so many other stress relief products, Inner Balance's effectiveness depends, more or less, on your belief in it. Personally, I get just as much stress relief out of a great iPhone game as I would an app like this, I think. But for the right person, Inner Balance could indeed help you to achieve the state it's named after. The device should be available in February, according to HeartMath, for a price of US$99.

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