Alex Farroll, a computer science PhD student at the University of Bath in the UK, has created an experimental device for tactile control of airflow during breathing exercises. They help reduce stress and calm people down, but it’s not easy for everyone to maintain the right breathing rhythm. In this they are called to help PAWS – a ball that “breathes” with a person.
The idea is to let a person feel his own breath through other senses, to give this process a new physical form. This helps to focus on the process and makes it easier to control the breath. Inside the ball there is a pneumatic chamber that expands and contracts in time with breathing – the device receives data from sensors on the human body.
In experiments, in people who did breathing exercises with audio commands, but without a ball, the level of anxiety at the end of the lesson decreased by an average of 31%. And for those who additionally used PAWS, anxiety dropped by more than 75%. Also, the second group showed high heart rate variability, which is considered an indicator of increased stress resistance and emotional regulation.
When a person breathes with PAWS in his hands, he can feel the movement of air, feel the rhythm, physical movement. This allows people to focus more deeply on their feelings. Research into the effectiveness of PAWS will continue, with Farrol currently working on a standalone wireless version.