Shamatha is a service designed for users who suffer from anxiety OCD who are facing a therapeutic path and who have been proposed to practice mindfulness, in particular the exercise of mindful breathing. This exercise consists in focusing the attention on the breath, an internal experience always present, thus letting thoughts flow in the head, without trying to trap them. As for these target of users could be complicated accepting the thoughts in their mind and focusing on body sensation, Shamatha aims to provide an interactive solution capable of providing an external biofeedback, in particular a visual output that represents the user’s respiratory rhythm, in order to encourage concentration on the here and now and thus increasing his awareness. The service can also be a guide in case the user finds himself in his daily life facing a critical situation that can trigger his unwanted thoughts, helping him to relax and reconstructing what happened through a series of questions: this functionality has been included for therapeutic purposes, as monitoring the patient in daily life is fundamental in the therapeutic path. Moreover. the user can monitor his progress in terms of practice and mood, receiving feedbacks from his therapist.
Interface, Technology and Interaction Modality
Shamatha consists of three main touchpoints: an app for the patient, a breath sensor that allows him to perform the proposed exercises interactively, a platform for the therapist in order to monitor patients and receive updates on them. Shamatha is able to recognize certain patients’ patterns, obtaining significant insights for both the patient and the therapist, thus allowing an optimization of the work to be carried out by both parties to achieve the therapeutic goal. The interfaces have been created and prototyped using Figma. The sensor was instead made using a pressure sensor, capable of recognizing the user’s breathing rhythm based on the pressure exerted on it by the user’s chest. The visual output associated with the breath was obtained through a serial communication between Arduino, connected to the sensor, and Processing.
The interfaces of the app and the visual output representing the user’s breath have been created keeping a clear and simple style: there are few visual elements in the various pages of the app to promote a feeling of relaxation. The platform created for the therapist has been designed in such a way that data related to patient trends can be highlighted, providing information useful for a better understanding of their status. The breath sensor is comfortable to wear, as it is light and not too invasive or tight.
Research and development context
Further developments for the service provided concern the possibility of exploring a new version of the sensor that is wearable in everyday life, such as a smartwatch, in order to make it possible at any time to carry out the exercises interactively, also allowing the sensor itself to recognize when the user is in a more anxious state that causes hyperven- tilation and helping him to relax, to prevent a worsening of his emotional state. Also, concerning the biofeedback, it could be interesting to create an uditive output, letting user decide if he prefers to use the sight or the hearing, or both of them to be aware of his breath.