Smart cushion reads your vitals, nags you not to slouch or stress

There are fitness trackers that help monitor your pulse and assess your health, but most of them require you to move around with an awkward thing strapped to your wrist or chest. The Darma smart cushion, however, only requires that you sit on it. Utilizing thin 1mm sensors that can detect even the tiniest body movements, the Darma will communicate your heart rate, respiratory patterns and even your sitting posture to an accompanying iOS app via Bluetooth 4.0. One of Darma's creators, Dr. Junhao Hu, tells us at a recent HAXLR8R event that the idea behind the Darma is that sitting for long periods of time is bad for your health, especially when it comes to poor posture and back problems. Additionally, working in an office environment can lead to high stress levels. Using the Darma cushion with the app, however, will hopefully resolve some of that.

After collecting your vital signs, the app will determine your overall stress levels and will recommend certain activities based on what it detects. For example, if it discovers you've been sitting for too long, it'll alert you to stand up and stretch. If it notices that you're slouching, it'll prompt you to sit up straight. And if it sees your stress levels are through the roof, it'll advise you to take a break and sit through a guided meditation minute where you're encouraged to relax until your heart rate slows down. It'll also let you view your stress levels and activity patterns over a period of time to see how you can stand to improve yourself.

We had a chance to see the Darma in person, and while the prototype version struggled a little in detecting our vitals (due to a Bluetooth problem, said Hu), it worked enough for us to see it in action. It's surprising how sensitive it is, so much so that just a tiny shift in our seats caused a reaction -- indeed, we had to keep absolutely still for it to read our initial heart rate. As a demonstration, Darma COO Jie Fu showed us a model where the cushion was hooked up to a computer, and it recorded his heart rate and respiratory patterns in real-time.

While Darma is still in the early stages, Dr. Hu tells us that it should be ready to launch on Kickstarter some time in June, with the final product shipping later this year. Though Darma only has an iOS app for now, the team does plan on releasing an Android version in the future. As for battery life, Dr. Hu tells us that since the battery is hidden inside the cushion, it should last a month when fully charged. The final retail price of the cushion will be $249, but Kickstarter early birds can snag it for only $149 -- you can register your email address on the company's website to get in on the deal. In the meantime, check out our gallery for a few photos of the cushion and the app, plus take a peek at the video below to get an idea for how it works.