Developing complex, innovative software doesn’t need to be stressful. Just ask wellness startup Do Breathe, who worked with Rocketmakers to develop a guided breathing app to help people get calm and centred quickly.
Do Breathe was founded with a mission to help millions of people to calm their minds, find focus, and live with more purpose. Breathing techniques which promote relaxation, recovery, and better decision-making are the foundation of the company’s work.
Everyone knows how to breathe, of course, but very few people know how to breath well. Most of the 23,000 breaths we take per day are too quick and too shallow, and few people notice the way breathing can drive our mental or physical wellbeing.
Do Breathe had previously developed a prototype app to help users quickly achieve a calm and centered state. This app used biofeedback technology, tracking the user’s heart rate and giving prompts for the optimum time to inhale and exhale. The goal was to provide a personalised breathing guide which could synch breathing and heart beats together - a state known as resonate breathing. This state is commonly achieved by experienced meditators and yogis, but Do Breathe hopes to make it more accessible for busy people on the go through a simple breathing experience.
While the prototype app was highly innovative, it was at best an “Alpha” version. It worked only on iPhones, struggled to capture and process heart rate data consistently, and needed a rebuild to make it scalable and provide a more engaging user experience.
Do Breathe co-founder Matt Roebuck had recently worked with the Rocketmakers development team when he worked for Unite Students. He knew Do Breathe needed some serious expertise to make a more robust and sophisticated biofeedback breathing app, so he recommended Rocketmakers to his fellow co-founders.
We wanted our breathing experience to be accessible to everyone with a smartphone, so we needed to measure a user’s pulse without any additional hardware,” Matt explained. “To do this users place their finger over the camera and flash. The flash shines light on the finger, and the camera measures changes in finger colour.
This might sound simple, but it is incredibly difficult to do well. Light conditions, temperature, finger shapes and sizes, as well as all the different smartphone models out there makes it really challenging to deliver accuracy and a high success rate.
Do Breathe had the scientific know-how to make the concept of the app viable, but translating that know-how into robust code with scalable architecture would be a challenge.
One of our co-founders is a biomedical engineer, so have the expertise and research to create good algorithms to implement,” Matt continued. “We needed developers with the ability to delve into the science behind the algorithms, rather than just reskin an existing app. Basically, we needed some really smart people with the ability to build something that felt simple, ‘zen,’ and intuitive, while hiding the complexity behind it.
Rocketmakers set to work, and in February 2020 produced a new Beta version of the Do Breathe app. Although initially released only for iOS, the new app has been built using the Apache Cordova framework to allow it to work on Android phones in future.
One of the major improvements to the new version is resilience. When the Alpha version would lose the user’s pulse signal - a frequent problem - it would suddenly stop.
The new version is also much better at handling the variability of human fingertips - sometimes they are hot, cold, wet, or suffer from poor circulation. Being able to find and track a pulse whatever from any finger provides a much improved user experience.
The Beta also allows users to register accounts and track their progress over time, with all data synced to the cloud. This enables some exciting new roadmapped features including displaying visual heartwave feedback, and a wellbeing tracking score based on heart rate variability called the Wellbeing Quotient or WQ.
The Beta version of the Do Breathe App is now in testing (just sign up on the Do Breathe website to take part). So far, the signs look good.
Catching a physiological biomarker like heart rate variability with a high degree of accuracy and usability using only a smartphone is a serious challenge,” Matt explained. “So far the new beta version is doing really well in testing. It is certainly a huge improvement over the original prototype. We want this app to help people relax, and when it was constantly stopping or failing to capture data it only had the opposite effect!
Next steps are to release a version for Android, and to add new features which include new tools for reducing stress and improving resilience.
Matt is very optimistic about the future of Do Breathe and the Do Breathe app:
Ultimately we want to help busy people develop more positive relationships with technology – especially their phones. I’m really pleased with the steps we’ve taken in this direction with Rocketmakers so far, and I’m looking forward to what comes next!
At Rocketmakers we leverage our experience to build innovative software for companies of all sizes. If you have a vision for a project and you need a technical partner to help you design, develop and deploy it, get in touch: [email protected]