Spire Activity and Mindfulness Tracker: De-Stress and Remember to BREATHE


Much as I hate to admit it, I have a tendency to allow myself to get stressed out. I first notice it in my shoulders, then it spreads to my head and, if left unchecked, results in a pounding headache. I didn’t have much hope that the Spire Activity and Mindfulness Tracker would make that big of a difference …


… but I’ve learned that I have much to learn.

Whatever your cause of stress — a looming deadline, a car wreck, a fight with your spouse, finding out you owe $10K in back taxes, speaking to someone who really upsets you — it’s easy to get stressed out. According to Stress.Org, when it happens, you’ll see the following reactions …


photo courtesy of Stress.Org

One of the first signs that stress has been triggered is faster breathing — when your breathing is fast enough, it can lead to hyperventilation or a full-blown panic attack. Obviously, if something serious has happened, like a car wreck or an attack, stress and the resulting “fight or flight” reaction can actually save your life. But think about the stresses that you run into daily, things that aren’t life-threatening, yet they still affect your state of mind.

Depending on how you’re wired, stress can be triggered by something as simple as running seriously late for a meeting. If you’re like me, then this is what happens next: your heart starts beating more quickly, and your breath gets quicker and more shallow. Everything seems magnified; it’s hard to think properly, and you feel scattered. It’s not even something I’m aware of when it first starts to happen — it just happens.

But what if there was a device that actually measured your breathing 24/7, that could take notice when the first signs of stress were occurring, notify you, and give you a chance to do something to stop the spiraling process before it got out of hand?

That’s exactly what the Spire does.

• Spire’s custom activity and force sensors combine to identify periods where your breathing reflects a tense, focused, or calm state of mind. To do this, it senses the expansion and contraction in your torso and diaphragm as you inhale and exhale.

• Advanced algorithms in the Spire app classify your breathing patterns based on dozens of laboratory studies correlating respiration patterns with cognitive and emotional state.

• The guidance in the app is based on protocols from clinical studies to alleviate anxiety and pain, increase heart rate variability, reduce blood pressure, and more.

But before I get into my experience with the Spire, let’s cover the hardware first. Included in the box are the Spire wearable, a USB to microUSB charging cable, and an attractive inductive charging pad. The Spire measures 1.2″ by 0.6″ and it weighs less than an ounce. You’ll be glad to know that it is not only waterproof, sweat-proof, and washing machine-proof, it also has a seven-day battery life. The clip is a nice brushed aluminum, and the breath-measuring part is a gray, flexible material that looks like a stone but is soft enough to be affected by your breathing.

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While the Spire is charging, it’s a good time to download either the iOS or Android app and get it set up. The app will walk you through the process, so the Spire can begin monitoring.

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Now it’s time to wear the Spire; you are supposed to place it either on the waist of your pants or on your bra. If  your placement and the resulting breath reading isn’t good, the app will let you know.


While you are wearing it, the Spire will use its respiration sensor and 3-axis accelerometer to measure your calmness, focus, and tension. Here’s a bit more info behind each of these functions. It will also measure your active minutes, sedentary minutes, steps, as well as your calories burned. What’s cool is that Spire will actually tell you what you were doing while you experienced your calmness, focus, and tension — as long as you took a photo while doing it or had the event on your calendar.

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When you’re wearing the Spire, if it notices that you are tense and your breathing has changed, it will send an alert to your phone like this …


… and it will vibrate on your body. The app will tell you about the vibrations, and it will actually physically show you what they are like so you know.

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When the Spire detects that you’ve had several minutes of tense breathing, it will alert you, interrupting “the cycle of tension and anxiety and [reminding] you to breathe deeply.”

Obviously, if you are in the middle of a life or death situation, a vibration on your body or a message from our phone isn’t going to mean a thing, BUT if you are stressing about one of those little triggers that we all come across during our day, the Spire will give you a reminder to stop and breathe.

If you are having trouble getting your breathing under control, Spire can help with that, too. Spire has a library of guided meditations, and guess what? They actually work. Check out the process below …

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And sure, the Spire also tracks your physical activity and gives you notifications when you need to get moving and stop being a slug, but to me, that’s just an extra benefit. The main reason I wear the Spire is because it tracks me in real-time and when I get tense it reminds me to calm down — it is managing to do something for me that someone saying “calm down” could never do. It works.

If you, like me, tend to find yourself in stressful situations, there is a way to stop things before they get out of hand. If you’ll allow the Spire to help you, it can make a difference.It will stop you in your tracks when you’re feeling tense, and it will help you calm down.

The Spire Activity and Mindfulness Tracker retails for $99.95, and it is available directly from the manufacturer, from the Apple Store, and from Amazon [affiliate link].

Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample

What I Like: Measures your levels of tension, focus, and calmness; Activity tracker; Included meditations for various situations; Washing machine proof; Battery lasts for 7 days

What Needs Improvement: I’m trying to come up with a negative, but I’m really happy with the Spire — if I hadn’t been sent one to review and I read how it worked for someone like me, I’d be buying one

Clean up the clutter with these charging stations from GUS


Are you a neat freak or a neat freak wannabe who has multiple devices that need to be charged? Multiple devices mean multiple charging adapters and cables which can leave desks or tables looking cluttered and messy. A solution is a charging station and if you’re in the market for one, you should check out the selections at GreatUsefulStuff.com. They have small stations, large stations and even stations that can be monogrammed. Prices range from $19.99 and up depending on the size and features, but all of them look like useful solutions for keeping tech devices juiced up while eliminating messy charging cords.

Filed in categories: Cables, Batteries and Chargers, News


Clean up the clutter with these charging stations from GUS originally appeared on The Gadgeteer on October 27, 2016 at 5:34 pm.

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Keep your MacBook Pro cool as a cucumber with the SVALT D2 Cooling Dock


The new SVALT D2 Performance Cooling Dock has been designed to keep professional laptop workstations like high-end Apple MacBooks cool when doing CPU intensive tasks like video, image editing, etc. You know what happens when you push your laptop to the max, the fans come on. The SVALT D2 Performance Cooling Dock has an external sensor that monitors your laptop’s temperature and adjusts its built-in fans from 0 to 3600 RPM to send cooling air directly into the laptop’s central cooling intake vent, where it cools the CPU and GPU processors without requiring any laptop modifications.


The SVALT D2 Performance Cooling Dock is made in the US and is carved from solid aerospace aluminum. It provides two-pound solid heat sink that doubles as a laptop support. Be sure to check their laptop compatibility page to see if your laptop is included.

With a price tag of $295, the SVALT D2 Performance Cooling Dock is VERY spendy but if you want one, head over to SVALT.com for all the details.

Filed in categories: Laptops and Gear, News

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Keep your MacBook Pro cool as a cucumber with the SVALT D2 Cooling Dock originally appeared on The Gadgeteer on October 27, 2016 at 4:15 pm.

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Sevenhugs hugOne is a sleep tracking device for the whole family


Every sleep tracking device that I’ve seen and reviewed so far has been designed for one person. The Sevenhugs hugOne is a sleep monitoring device for the whole family. The hugOne tracks sleep patterns, temperature, humidity and air quality to create the best environment for a restful night’s sleep. The hugOne system is comprised of a base unit and up to eight individual sleep sensors that are placed under the sheet next to the mattress. That’s right, they aren’t wearable, which I have found uncomfortable. 

The sleep monitoring system learns each family member’s sleep cycle and works with an alarm clock app that wakes you at the best moment in the sleep cycle each morning. Each of the sensors called miniHugs shut off electronic transmissions when a presence is detected. The sensor begins recording sleep data automatically until the user leaves the bed and then uploads the data to the app. The hugOne is compatible with Nest smart thermostats and Philips Hue light bulbs which allows users to fall asleep with sunset light and wake up to sunrise light, while adjusting nighttime and daytime temperatures for comfort. The hugOne base unit with two miniHug sleep sensors is available from Amazon for $179, with additional sensors retailing for $49 each. You can find more info at sevenhugs.com

Filed in categories: Health, Fitness, Sports, News


Sevenhugs hugOne is a sleep tracking device for the whole family originally appeared on The Gadgeteer on October 27, 2016 at 3:36 pm.

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Retro Fighters showcase new NES Retro Controller

retro-fightersThe gamepad is one of the staples of console gaming, and it can never be separated from the console itself even if we are living in the age of VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality). Basically, even when the Nintendo Wii broke onto the scene with their Wiimote, there was still space for a Wii Controller for obvious reasons — you simply cannot waggle your way through Zelda or Mario. Well, Retro Fighters have come up with their next generation NES retro controller, updating a gamepad from a console that many of us grew up with in our very first exposure to home consoles.

This is the very first product from Retro Fighters, calling the next generation designed NES controller as the Jab Gamepad. Do not scoff at it even though it might look as though it hails from the 1990s, as the Jab Gamepad happens to be the very first NES compatible controller that has been redesigned from ground up, sporting next generation features and attributes in order to keep up with the times.

The entire look has been updated to make sure it is still relevant in the current century, although some might beg to differ. At least it is ergonomically shaped, which should deliver a potent user experience without losing any grip as you play. The D-pad looks comfortable enough to play with that it places less stress on the thumbs, and the ergonomic layout of the B & A buttons would be well appreciated by gamers who love marathon sessions.

Not only that, there are B & A shoulder and trigger buttons which lets you use it in conjunction with analog sticks or the D-pad, paving the way for many other button combinations. Heck, even a turbo function has been thrown into the mix, allowing you to gain a wee bit of boost as and when required.

Press Release
[ Retro Fighters showcase new NES Retro Controller copyright by Coolest Gadgets ]

The Dewalt Backpack is for tools and tech


It’s easy to forget that the Internet and technology have basically taken over the world. We’re learning and doing things at speeds that people couldn’t have imagined 20 years ago. That being said, most people have moved their jobs that were traditionally in brick and mortar stores to online shops. However, there are some jobs such as construction, that don’t have that kind of luxury.

Of course, just because manual labor jobs aren’t able to do their work from the Internet doesn’t mean they aren’t using it to their advantage. If you are a tradesman, maintenance or repair technician, DIYer, or general laborer who works with tools, then this Dewalt Work Gear Pack is going to be your new best friend. It’s basically a commuter backpack for your phone, tablet, and camera, but with 23 slots for tools, and a power bank to make sure your phone can keep going throughout the day.

Not only does this battery have cut-off protection so you don’t unnecessarily suck up power, but the internal charging compartment will let you charge two devices at once. There are three versions of this bag, with this one starting the price point at around $65. The larger 57-pocketed backpack with lights will cost around $93, while the lighted technicians bag that has 28 pockets and base pad feet so it will sit comfortably on the ground without crumpling over under its own weight only costs around $48.

Available for purchase on Amazon
[ The Dewalt Backpack is for tools and tech copyright by Coolest Gadgets ]

Don’t wear pants? Then use SmartKlear and NASA technology to clean your phone’s screen


SmartKlear is a screen cleaner that uses carbon pads wipe the crud off your smartphone’s display. It’s exactly like a Swiffer mop for your smartphone only it’s tiny and isn’t like a Swiffer mop at all. Sorry SmartKlear and all those other screen cleaning gadgets out there… but how many people are THAT worried that their phone has more germs than a toilet seat? Obviously not many because people are still using their phones while they are on a toilet. 😉 Seriously though, SmartKlear may clean your screen, but I’ve been using my pants leg to polish off smudges and gunk for years without paying $15 for a dedicated cleaner thingy. If you’re interested in SmartKlear then head over to the Grommet.

Filed in categories: Articles, iOS, News


Don’t wear pants? Then use SmartKlear and NASA technology to clean your phone’s screen originally appeared on The Gadgeteer on October 27, 2016 at 1:48 pm.

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Loop is the social media “TV” of the future that looks like a TV from the past


Loop is a voice and gesture controlled wireless portable TV with a 10″ HD display that you can configure by creating private and public channels that can be shared with other people. A channel can contain images, videos or even live streams from you or your favorite sites like Facebook, Instagram, Dropbox, Flickr, Apple Photos, and Google Photos. Pictures can also be sent to your Loop through the Loop website. Switching between channels is done the old school way with the analog knob on the side of the Loop. 

Other features include the ability to cast videos to the Loop from a smartphone, watching YouTube videos/channels and video chatting between other Loops in one house or between Loops 100’s of miles away.

Loop can currently be pre-ordered for $149 with shipping due in December.

Filed in categories: Audio, Video, TV, News


Loop is the social media “TV” of the future that looks like a TV from the past originally appeared on The Gadgeteer on October 27, 2016 at 11:03 am.

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Cubii Smart under desk elliptical machine review


My employer recently offered standing desks to employees. I was a bit skeptical about the supposed health benefits of this trend and after some research I discovered that there was little concrete evidence that a sitting-standing desk provides substantial health benefits. Soon after, The Gadgeteer made an under-the-desk elliptical by Cubii available for review.  I thought it would be great to compare my experience of work-place fitness with my sitting-standing work colleagues. After a month of use, I’m ready to share our experience. Read on for the full story.


The Cubii comes in a box about 15″ x 15″ x 26″ that weighs a hefty 32 lbs. Even though the weight of this device may place it outside of the realm of a typical gadget, much of that weight is needed to keep the Cubii in place while it is positioned on the ground.

The Cubii comes with everything you need, minus the desk and chair, to get moving right out of the box. Most of the unit is pre-assembled; all that is required before using if for the first time is that the right and left pedals are screwed into the right and left lever arms.


And what I mean by it coming with “everything you need”, is that they included a Phillips screwdriver in the box too.


After the pedals are installed the unit is ready to go. You can see from the featured photo at the top of the story that the Cubii imitates the modern styling of trendy office furniture and looks less like a piece of equipment you are likely to find at the gym. I was sent a silver and black unit for evaluation; the black and red unit, which looks like the type of exercise equipment Jeff Bridges would use in Tron, is probably much more sought after for its futuresque design and is constantly on back-order on the Cubii web store. An evaluation based on practical considerations would probably favor the silver unit, because it is less likely to show dust and it is easier to see where the center of the pedals are under a dimly lit desk.

The assembled dimensions are 23″ x 17.5″ x 10”. I have positioned my computer at the corner of a desk so that I have a large work surface in front, but also to the left and right of me. That may mean that the positioning of my Cubii is not typical and that I have more desk surface (the two triangle shaped areas in front of my keyboard) than usual. Still, positioning my Cubii under my desk was easy thanks to the built in handle in the center of the unit.


Once in place, the foam coated bottom (and 28 lb.) keeps the unit from moving about. My office is carpeted under my desk, but I also tried using it in areas that are floored with resilient tile and polished quarry tile. The Cubii did budge on any of the surfaces.

Cubii provides two chair wheel stoppers to prevent a caster footed chair from backing up while using the unit.


I found that the stopper walls were too high for my office chair casters – they don’t fit completely into the cups and I’m not sure how long they will last if they hang over the edge like it is pictured below.


Furthermore, the arrangement of my desk prevents me from positioning the chair into the wheel stopper cups and being able to get in and out of the seat comfortably. Fortunately, the carpet provides enough resistance to movement that I don’t need to use the cups at work. The pictures below show that the cups work well for the chairs that I have at home.

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The position of the Cubii must be customized based on the desired distance of your chair from your desk and the desired placement of your feet on the pedals. The underside of my desk is 28-5/8″ from the floor and my chair seat is positioned 21″ above the floor. I’m 5’11” and I have not had an issue with my legs hitting the underside of my desk (I estimate I have about 2″ before I whack my knee). I think that taller individuals may either have to lower their chair or use the Cubii with a raised desk. The directions state that the load limit is 250 lbs.; I assume that means the dead-weigh load limit on each side can’t exceed 50 lbs., assuming each leg is about 20% of total body weight.


There are about three warnings, in the form of stickers and directions, that caution the user from trying to exercise on the Cubii like a stepper. Other than that the use is very intuitive. The action is very smooth and balanced, there is no jerkiness throughout the entire rotation of the pedal assembly. The front of the pedals rotates in a circle while the rear of the pedals (closer to the user) slide along wheels in a back and forth motion, therefore creating an eliptical path for the feet. Facing the user is a resistance selection knob which varies the resistance on a scale of 1 to 8. The resistance is achieved by a magnetic break so it isn’t likely to wear out from continued use.

Normally the unit is very quiet.  it isn’t completely silent but doesn’t make any more noise than the building HVAC. From the app (more on that below) I have made 190565 strides over the course of almost 42 hours of use and have had no problems except once. At around 138555 strides the belt made noise for about 100 revolutions.  It corrected itself and hasn’t made noise since.

It’s Smart too

There are other manufacturers of under-the-desk ellipticals, but the Cubii is the only smart model on the market. The unit connects to a smart phone app and reports revolutions. The app uses a Bluetooth connection to obtain the revolution data from the Cubii, along with the time the data is reported, and a manually entered resistance level, to calculate the calories burned miles “walked”, minutes used and total strides made.

The battery must be charged before the unit can be paired with the phone. The instructions state that charging the unit completely can take up to 6 hours. I let mine charge overnight. At first I thought that it was odd that this doesn’t use a dynamo to provide the required power or keep the battery topped-off, but considering the noise of the typical dynamo gear set, the force a typical dynamo requires, the cost of precision gearing that will endure the millions of rotations the dynamo is subjected to, and the fact that using a light weight battery isn’t a consideration, battery power makes much more sense.

Downloading the app should really be the first thing you do because it includes instructional videos on setting up the Cubii. The app requires registration with a username and password. Profile settings include height, weight and gender, from which I assume that caloric burn is calculated.

The app features a dashboard that allows you to view the calories, strides, miles and minutes of use in real time. The resistance setting on the Cubii must be manually entered in the app to match the setting on the Cubii to ensure the correct calorie burn  calculation. (I wonder how much more it would cost to have this be wired back electronically through the Bluetooth connection?)

A progress screen shows the calories, strides, miles and minutes of use as a cumulative chart for either the day, week, month (actually a rolling 4 week period) or year. When the Cubii started squeaking I took the screenshot below of the cumulative calories burned.


The app allows you to set a calorie or distance goal and an optional alarm to remind you to meet your goal every 30 minutes, 1, 2, 3, or 4 hours and on any particular day of the week.  I have a distance goal set but the alarm seems a little irritating to me so I don’t use it.

There is a social aspect of the app too. Users can search for other users by name and invite them to groups to compete for calories burned. I believe this is most useful for offices or companies that have more than one employee with a Cubii. I was also invited to a Global community of Cubii users so I can see how my usage compares with other Cubii users. A setting within the app allows you to determine if you are visible to the Cubii community. The app also allows you to upload a photo so you are more recognizable in the search results.

One of the coolest things the app lets you do is connect your Cubii to Fitbit. After logging in to the Fitbit site, the Cubii will record calories, time, and steps every 30 minutes on Fitbit and the Cubii exercise will appear as “Walk” on your Fitbit dashboard. The number of calories on Cubii and Fitbit are the same, but the distance and steps do not equal the “miles” and strides recorded on the Cubii app. Maybe Fitbit is determining the number of steps that equate to the calories burned and determining the distance from the stride length? Alternatively, Cubii will only record calories and time on the Fitbet every 30 minutes and the Cubii exercise will appear as “Cubii” on the Fitbit dashboard. Here is an example of the imported data on my Fitbit dashboard:


I suppose that if you are tracking your health by steps count then the first option makes sense. If you’re on a weight loss program and counting calories the second option makes sense. Either way, Fitbit has a well-established presence in the health community and there are a number of apps that allow you to leverage the data once it is in the Fitbit database. For instance, I’m using myFitnessSync to convert the fitbit data into Apple Health data on my iPhone.

I do have to disclose that Cubii appears to have a hard time maintaining the link to Fitbit. I usually have to enter my username and password once a day. I don’t know if it is just me or others are having similar issues. Also, I did experience an app crash when scrubbing the group details on the Cubii global (Official) group. I have let the manufacturer know about these bugs and they have been very supportive in trying to repair the errors. I give the developers an A+ for support. Also, I think it would be great to include a cadence feature into the app so you can determine the speed you are pedaling.


As you can see from the article above I use the Cubii quite a bit at work. I have discovered that it is the perfect way to remain active during the day and still be at my desk.  Best of all, I have a real appreciation for how much energy I’m expending throughout the day. But how does this compare to the standing desk? A study discussed in a 2013 BBC News Magazine article determined that standing individuals have, on average, a 10 BPM higher heartbeat than sitting individuals, and that this can be used to substantiate the standing desks energy-burning capabilities. I have a Wahoo Tickr X so I used it to calculate my average heart rate while using and not using the Cubii. I was working productively while I was researching this and didn’t feel that I was exerting myself to achieve the results. The result is that my average resting heart rate was 71 and my average pedaling heart rate was 84; each average is based on 1,500 seconds of data. Yes, I’m well aware that this is a completely unscientifically valid result with only one test subject (me), no repeated trials, and the subject is fully aware of the test conditions. However, a 13 BPM difference is more than the 10 BPM difference achieved with standing desks.

The Tickr also provides a calorie computer and the number that the Tickr reported was quite a bit larger than the number reported by the Cubii. After 46 minutes of continuous, use the Cubii estimated 103.6 calories burned and the Tickr estimated 239. One reason for the difference is that the Tickr is including resting metabolism (it keeps counting calories even if I’m not exercising). By measuring my calorie burn with the Tickr while not exercising I can determine my energy expenditure is 161 calories during the same period. (Again, I get it, not scientifically valid)  Therefore, the Tickr shows 78 calories to the Cubii’s 103 calories – pretty close.


I am very happy with the Cubii and will be using it this winter while the streets are icy and cold. It actually a motivator to stay at my desk and work because I know that I can be healthy at the same time. The Cubii is a bit pricier than other similar models, but some of these have had negative customer reviews on build quality and robustness. The Cubii seems like a well-built design and I recommend that you get one if you are considering adding this type of exercise to your daily regimen.*

Source: The sample for this review was provided by Cubii. Please visit their site for more info and Amazon to order one.

* I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. You should consult your physician or other health care professional before starting this or any other fitness program to determine if it is right for your needs. The use of any information provided on this site is solely at your own risk.


Product Information

  • chair
  • iOS 8.0 or later
  • Android 4.4 or later
  • smooth operation
  • quiet
  • A bit pricy
  • Some software glitches

Filed in categories: Health, Fitness, Sports, Reviews


Cubii Smart under desk elliptical machine review originally appeared on The Gadgeteer on October 27, 2016 at 9:30 am.

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WaterField’s Maxwell Sleeve will protect that new MacBook you’ll want to order later today


Today is the event where Apple will unveil their new MacBooks. I’m not in the market for a new one for myself since my 13″ MBP is only a couple years old, but I really like the looks of WaterField’s new Maxwell Sleeves. These sleeves are made in San Francisco and come in three different materials including a cool looking new water-repellent material that is coated with Nano-tex® technology, waxed canvas, or ballistic nylon. All of the versions have leather accents and feature an ultra cool magnetic closure system. That’s right, no zippers, snaps or Velcro! WaterField is offering these sleeves in sizes for the 12″ MB up to the 15″ MB, with or without D-rings, and in a variety of colors. Prices range from $99 for the ballistic version up to $119 for the water-repellent sleeves. Head over to WaterField to check them out.

Filed in categories: Cases and Covers, News


WaterField’s Maxwell Sleeve will protect that new MacBook you’ll want to order later today originally appeared on The Gadgeteer on October 27, 2016 at 8:20 am.

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