This strange cedar egg wants to help you breathe deep and calm down

In moments of stress and anxiety, there are those of us who find it difficult to breathe — and paradoxically, many reach for a cigarette or vape as a way to manage that. But what if instead of nicotine or smoke, the device you grabbed put fresh air in your lungs and helped you calm down? That’s the idea behind the Kitoki.

Looking a bit like an oversized bean with a sippy cup tip on the end, the Kitoki is a striking but not immediately attractive device. It’s not really clear what it’s supposed to do. And indeed after trying it, I’m still not entirely sure. But I like it anyway.

The idea is this: When you need to calm down, you grab the Kitoki. Its rounded shape and smooth cedar make it a pleasant thing to hold in the first place. Then you put your fingers on the little buttons and take a deep breath through the mouthpiece. A tiny LED lights up when the device senses that you have taken a deep enough breath. The idea here is to prevent hyperventilation and promote calmness, and sometimes a cue can be helpful for that.

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While and after you’re taking this breath, your galvanic skin response (an electrical measurement affected by sweat) is measured via the little metal dots. This is supposed to be a general indicator of stress (take all these claims with a grain of salt, naturally) and the device monitors it and, the company claims, de-noises the signal and finds something worthwhile in it. If it decides you’ve calmed down while you’ve been using the device, it gives you a little buzz. If not, take another breath.

The air I breathed when I tried the device seemed different, but I don’t think there’s any kind of scent module in there. It might just be that it is drawn through channels in the cedar and given a fresh sort of taste. If anything it might just be some tiny bit of essential oil — no nicotine or e-juice or anything like that.

The Kitoki isn’t going to change the world, but I like the design and the intent behind it. It’s a friendly little device, simple and well made, and it’s about calmness and mindfulness rather than productivity and speed. We could all stand to stop and take a deep breath once in a while.

CES 2019 coverage - TechCrunch