Respiratory coaching is a form of physical therapy that is growing in popularity. Practitioners believe that it can improve mental health as a type of meditation, help alleviate symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and enhance athletic performance. True scientific research into respiratory coaching is limited at this time and early studies show trends but not statistical significance, but many patients report positive results. If you have an interest in this therapy and some skill with electronics, you might want to take a look at this DIY standalone respiratory coaching device called RespiCo.
Respiratory coaching is essentially guided breathing. Innate breathing patterns aren’t always appropriate for a given situation, such as when a panic attack causes a person to hyperventilate. Respiratory coaching could — at least in theory — help such a person gain control over their breathing patterns. Proactive coaching can give them coping skills ahead of time in a manner similar to training muscle memory and reactive coaching can help during acute episodes of abnormal breathing. Practitioners often use smartphone apps or personal coaches to guide their breathing, but RespiCo is an affordable and customizable alternative.
RespiCo can guide a user’s breathing—inhales and exhales—through auditory, visual, or haptic indicators. Auditory indicators come in the form of a buzzer sounding at different pitches. An RGB LED provides visual indication (blue to breath in, green to breathe out). A wearable vibration motor enables haptic indication with pulses telling the user when to inhale and exhale. Users can setup the type of coaching they want, the specific parameters (such as breaths per minute), and the indication method through a web interface hosted by the RespiCo device.
The primary component of the RespiCo device is an Adafruit Feather HUZZAH32 ESP32 development board. Power comes from a small LiPo battery pack that plugs into the HUZZAH32’s built-in connector. The LED, buzzer, haptic feedback connection, and control buttons solder onto a FeatherWing Proto board.
The result is a very compact device that should cost less than $40 to build. It’s an ideal solution for providing dedicated respiratory coaching that works even without a smartphone — though some sort of nearby computer, tablet, or smartphone is necessary to setup a coaching session.