AUSTIN—Fifty million Americans have some kind of breathing difficulty—for about half, that’s asthma, one of the most common chronic conditions there is. My brother had pretty bad asthma when we were kids, and so I’ve seen how it can interfere with your activities and virtually chain you to an inhaler.
For parents looking for alternatives to medication, the answer is a mix of tracking a child’s asthma symptoms to hone in on each child’s triggers, as well as training the lungs—together that can reduce the need for inhalers up to 86 percent. The Alvio device by QoL puts a new spin on traditional breathing trainers. It’s a connected device that pairs with an iOS or Android device, turning breathing exercises into a game.
The first app has a few activities—the demo I got at South by Southwest was a side-scrolling game in which you play as a hungry fish. You blow into the Alvio to make the fish swim higher in the water, and then stop blowing to make him sink. As the fish goes up and down, he gobbles smaller fish, and you rack up points. The placement of these fish is far from random: QoL says the game is built with medical protocols, and a dial on the Alvio device can ramp up the difficulty as the patient’s lungs get stronger over time.
QoL thinks kids will be more likely to stick with their lung training exercises if the games are fun, and parents will also get analytics and reporting on their child’s progress. The device can also send alerts if the child’s symptoms seem to be getting worse—letting parents know to intervene before a full-blown asthma attack can happen.
The Alvio device will be sold direct to consumers, later this year, for $199; it will include one app. More games will come to the iOS and Android app stores later on. QoL is also participating in clinical studies and hospital trials to adapt the technology to patients suffering from bronchitis, emphysema, and people recovering from surgery. Hopefully this connected device will help millions of people—especially kids—breathe a little easier.