Being a tech journalist is a stressful job. And CES is the most stressful time of year. So naturally, I'm looking for any opportunity I have to take a couple of minutes, breathe, relax and just focus on myself. Which meant the first thing I did when I rolled into Unveiled -- basically the officially kickoff party for CES -- was wander over the booth for Core, a device designed to help you meditate.
There are plenty of apps out there focused on guided meditations and mental wellness. And, not surprisingly, there's a software component to Core as well. But what sets it apart from the Headspaces of the world is there's a physical object for you to hold that also collects data to help track your meditation journey.
The Core meditation trainer itself is a sphere with a slice taken out of it. The bottom is a satisfying piece of rosewood, though the top is a more utilitarian white plastic with an ECG sensor embedded in it. Still the over all aesthetic is appealing. And that's important to the company's philosophy. It doesn't want to nag you with notifications that you've been trained to dismiss (like so many CES PR pitches), instead it wants you to feel comfortable leaving the device out on your nightstand or desk as a regular reminder to take a few minutes for yourself.
Inside the app you'll find a selection of guided meditations, breathing exercises and soundscapes. There's a small collection of them available for free when you purchase the $169 Core, but there's also a subscription service if you want to take venture deeper. The $10 a month price isn't cheap, but you can cut it in half by signing up for a full year.
Once you select and session and rest your thumbs on the ECG sensors the Core will start to gently vibrate in sync with the app. There is a baseline, but as you're instructed to take a deep breath in, or a long exhale the intensity will ramp up. The purpose here is to give you something to focus on. Often in apps like Calm you might be asked to focus on your breath, but for those just getting started, holding a physical object might prove an easier entry point.
At the end of your session the app will display a host of data, taking obvious cues from things like Fitbit. You'll see a general measure of your calm and focus, but also raw data like your heart rate and your heart rate variability which is a decent measure of how much stress your body is under.
Core is part of a growing market looking to capitalize on a renewed interest in meditation and wellness. But it's also a slightly pricey device going up against established players like Headspace, Calm, and Sattva. And unlike those services it requires a pretty significant outlay of cash just to try it out. But if you've been looking to bring Fitbit style quantification to your mindfulness training, there aren't many other options out there.
Core will be available on January 6th for $169, with subscriptions starting at $5 a month.