Arianna Huffington showcases her new app at CES 2013CNET's Dan Farber interviews Huffington Post's Arianna Huffington about her new app called GPS for the Soul, a health app to combat stress and promote a healthy lifestyle.
-We're at CES as you know in Las Vegas. I'm Dan Farber with CNET news, and I am joined by Arianna Huffington who's the editor-in-chief and president of the Huffington Post. Welcome. -Thank you Dan. It's great to be here. It looks wonderful. -Well, I think everybody here is probably a little bit tired out. Maybe a little stressed out and what we're up here to talk about is really this whole concept of digital health, and you wrote today on Huffington Post that this CES would be kind of transformative and-- and it's kind of a perfect storm for digital health. Could you explain what you mean by that? -So there are three trends that are converging here at CES this year. One is the fact that more and more of us are recognizing that stress is destroying relationships, careers and our health, and we want to do something about it. The second trend is the fact that healthcare costs are skyrocketing. We now have a report from the Center for Disease Control that says that 75% of what we spend on healthcare costs is spent on preventable chronic diseases. -And those preventable chronic diseases are-- -Obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, you know, some of these would not be preventable. But the vast majority of them would be preventable if we became more aware of our stress, if we change our diet, our exercise etcetera. And the third trend, which of course very relevant being here at CES, is the fact that we now have all these technologies and all these apps that make it possible for us to monitor our health and make us much more aware of our stress levels of how we are eating, of how much we are exercising etcetera, etcetera. It's all the wearable devices, but it's also all the apps, you know, 44 million health apps will have been downloaded in 2012. -Now when we say health app, I've been around the show floor. There are a number of health apps that will measure some biometrics data such as the Fitbit or-- or Lark, there's even a fork-- -HapiFork. -that will let you know that you're eating too fast. So we're-- we're starting to see the-- these products come out, but it still seems to me that the-- getting people to use them is still the difficult challenge ahead. -Well, 30 million wearable devices were shipped in 2012 and which is a significant number. You know, these are the early adaptors, but what is interesting for me is the largest question of awareness, becoming more aware of the stress we are bringing into our lives every day. And then what we're doing at the Huffington Post is we took all our 18 Lifestyle Sections and we've combined them under the logo, "Less stress, more living". So let's say, you go to our Wedding Section, we're going to give you all the things you on to not, but where to buy your wedding dress, or how to find a wedding planner, but also we're going to give you a lot of content about how to get married without stressing out. And then if your marriage doesn't work out, you can go to our Divorce Section. And then find out how you can get divorced with less stress and co-parent with less stress, etc. -I did not know stress was such a good business. Now when-- when you talked about stress, there-- there are a bunch of numbers here, in the United States 31% of people have high blood pressure, 9.5 million people have diabetes, 28 million-- or 28% are considered obese, a lot of people don't exercise. So, it's a big challenge, and how do you think that these apps and all the technologies in this so-called internet things, where you have all these devices that can give you data, give you biofeedback to help you regulate your life better? I mean, do-- do you think that we are really at the tipping point? -I think we are at the tipping point and what these apps and wearable devices help is it gives us kind of entry point. For me, the GPS for the Soul that we are launching this week is such an entry point because you downloaded on your iPhone, it gives you a proxiful stress, your heart rate variability, and then you personalize a guide that helps you course correct. It can be, in my case, its pictures of my children when they were young and non-problematic, you know, music that helps me destress, pictures. I saw on your Twitter feed, Dan, that you have pictures of trees, trees in Sonoma and now the tree. So I'd like you to do a guide because clearly nature helps you destress, so include pictures of trees and nature, whatever it is. It's a very personal thing. But then we also have social element, which is that you can actually share guides with your friends, with other, you can look at guides by experts like Deepak Chopra etc. or Mark Hyman, on the GPS for the Soul section. And for me it's you-- as you said, it's the beginning, and then you can build on it, then we-- it's free, because I want all that to be free. So as meaningful as possible can be help and it's being sponsored by Weight Watchers. They have a-- they have actually a new campaign called "I'm only human and I did it" about losing weight and they have acknowledged the connection between weight and stress. So at the same time we are partnering with others like Talk Teller which is a company that gives, produces therapy sessions that you can afford, you know, under $10 as oppose to having to pay $100 etc. -It sounds like your developing a-- a kind of a mechanism in clearing house for de-stressing. -Yes, I want us to be a clearing house for de-stressing. That's a very good--can I use that, I like that. -You of course can use it. Let me ask you this, many of us, you know, we are using all these digital devices and we can't get away from that. Here is a digital device that's gonna help us get away from them but I just find the curious as to how, for example myself, where I can you know, over come my twitter habit and de-stress from that? -Well, first of all you are raising an incredibly important point, which is that technology has contribute to our stress but this like-- like everything in life there are paradoxes, and the paradox here is that you can also use the technology to help you disconnect from technology and connect with yourself. So, for example, sleep, getting in our sleep is a very big factor in reducing stress. At the Huffington post of dedicated section on sleep. And a-- -Do you have a section on being awake? -We don't recommend it. But you know, in that section you get a lot of clues about how to disconnect from technology. An hour at least before you go to sleep. No screens. Like I have no screens in my bedroom. You know, I like to read a book rather than read something on my iPad before I go to sleep. There are a lot of things like that, that are simple, they're simple. We just need to start introducing them into our lives. -You started out with an iPhone app or you're moving to the iPad to the Android devices. Are you going to be integrating other technologies that can feed more data-- -Absolutely. -into your profile on GPS. - Our head of mobile technology Otto Toff is here. And then Ottto has a lot of plans for the app, this is version 1, we would love to get your feedback. And move on to version 2 and introduce both a lot more data but also a lot more ways that we can get information about ourselves and ways that we can lead our lives in a-- in a less stressful and more fulfilling way. -So it's a great use of technology, many companies offer similar kinds of facilities though, tell people, in every 15 minutes, you need to get up and walk around or we have a little meditation room, you can go in to but having an auto device and given there are 6.5 billion smart phones out there, and at least you have the Apple phones, how do you see this expanding outside, let's say in to the-- other countries or third world countries where people don't even see a doctor, they probably never seen a doctor? -Well, that's why I think this is a such a moment of promise that being able to take control of your own healthcare as much as possible. It's going to really help with people who can't afford to see a doctor even here, people who use the emergency room as their primary care physician. And I think it's also helping people recognize the connection between our mind, our body and our soul. That's why we call it GPS for the Soul, because if you just take care of your physical health, it's not going to be enough, I mean, if you just take care of what you eat and how much exercise you get. And you don't deal with your anxiety, your depression, your stress, you're still not really dealing with the whole being and-- and all these other factors are going to affect your health. I mean, there is no question about that anymore, the jury is in and we need to recognize it. -It's a little bit of a catch 22 because stress can cause you problems with relationships and careers and family and everything and yet how do you solve those root cause and that-- that's the kind of the bigger issue? -And that's why really the bigger issue, it requires more tools. I mean, that's why we partner with Talk Teller, that's why we partnered with the company called meQuilibrium, where you can actually take surveys that get you to identify the root cause of your stress. You are absolutely right, if you are having a problem with your marriage, or a problem with your job, you need to address the root cause but at least we begin to become much more aware of how we are feeling about things instead of unconsciously going through our days and weeks until we collapse. You know Dan, you know we are talking on the green room; actually I came to want to do all this things on the Huffington Post because of my personal experience. 4.5 years ago, I fainted from exhaustion, I hit my head on my desk, I broke my cheekbone, I got 4-stitches on my right eye and it started me on this journey of rediscovering sleep, learning to deal with my stress better and then I thought, I want to share these and use the HuffPost platform to be able to share it with millions of people. -Well, I'm sure everyone who's watching or here in person is fairly stressed out and I guess you could recommend that they get GPS for the Soul. Check it out to kind of de-stress as they're cruising all the-- the wares here. But let me ask you about CES in general, have you had a chance to see many the products and technologies outside of digital health? -You know, I focused more on digital health which in the broadest possible way and I find that a lot of devices, for example, that can help children spend more time outdoors. You mentioned the HapiFork, there's a device that actually-- it's like a small tooth brush that can tell you-- you know, we all kind of take short cuts in brushing our teeth that can play music and have you make sure that you brush your teeth for the right amount of time. And this seems like first-world problems, I get it, but in a sense we are moving from the smart phone and the smart car, and the smart washing machine, and the smart home to the smart self. And I think from the smart self, I hope we're going to move to a wise self because I think the problem we are facing right now is not lack of smarts but lack of wisdom. And I think as Steve Jobs and as Bill Gates have said again and again, "everybody needs to disconnect", quite their mind in order to tap into their intuition, insight and wisdom and from that place; we can be more creative and healthier at the same time. -So when you think about this product going forward, what do you see has potential extensions to a GPS, I mean what-- what do you think is the kind of ideal set of tools that someone would need to make this inherently useful but to really adapt it. I think the-- the challenge in all this technologies is-- is adoption, which is you use it once or twice it's great and then you kind of forget about it. -Well, the key thing is how to make it addictive, you know, the negative addictions and positive addictions and I think, it becomes addictive when it's really super useful. And so getting alerts to remind you to check is really a way to remain conscious throughout the day. I mean how many times have we just driven ourselves through the day, instead of taking little pauses. In fact at the Huffington Post offices, we have installed two nap rooms because sometimes having a 20-minute nap can restore you for the rest of the day and you know, right now it's hard to book them. You know they are so popular. Yesterday, I was walking by and I saw two people coming out of the nap rooms. You know whatever it takes to be able to de-stress is fine with me, just don't tell HR. but the point is, naps are one way, breathing. You know, that's why the GPS for the Soul has a breathing pace that can help you inhale and exhale consciously which is a great way to de-stress. -I-- I tried it and the interesting thing is as you put your finger over the camera lens and then you have to wait 80 seconds to get the final readings so-- -That taught us to breathe. -Yes, so if you started 80 beats per minute, you wanna get it down by the time it hits that 80 seconds. And so you do a really focus on lowering your breathing but I think it's-- like most people you get competitive with your GPS for the Soul. -Yes, exactly. -which is a little stressful. So it's very hard to get rid of that stress. -Do you have a video to show them? -I think we-- we've run the video -Oh you did? I wasn't looking. -as we're talking. No we actually-- I just heard from the control room we are gonna run it now. We'll take a look now. -Right, it'll show you a little bit about how it works. This is you stressed. -It's a de-stressing music and it makes you feel calm. -Yes, and it's basically-- and everybody can pick their own de-stressing music, whatever it is. -And then you can share your-- your guides to de-stressing with your friends and publish them and maybe become famous for your de-stressing guide. -In fact, as soon as you send us your guide, we're going to splash it from the GPS for the Soul site. -It's gonna show you pictures of trees. -That's great. -And I'll have to find the right music -And I want to invite everybody here to send us your guides, I'm gonna give you my email address, Arianna-- nobody is watching right? email@example.com and do a guide. And if you need help, our L2s can help you but it's very basic and easy. And it's very personal, it's the thing that helps each one of us course correct. -We-- we talked a lot about the technologies and some of the apps, 44 million apps this year related to health, the government and the health system in America is basically broken and bankrupt and-- this is one little drop in the water to move it in the right direction, which is to focus more preventive health and not have all this cause on the other side. What else, do you think can be done and do you think that the government can figure out a way to de-stress itself? -Well, right now we have one in every eight Americans on some form of psycho-tropic drug. There is like stunning on anti-- -Including children. --including children, on anti-depressants, on sleeping medication. Now that is not sustainable, we need to move to more sustainable lifestyles. We-- it's not, I mean, occasionally, you may need a sleeping tablet, but to be a-- to be incapable without a sleeping pill is not how these human beings that we are were designed. So there's-- we need to bring a sense of urgency to the delivery of healthcare and to realize that it starts with each one of us. It's some of it, we cannot delegate to anybody else because all the decisions we made in the course of the day basically add up to a health profile at the end of the year or at the end of the decade depending on our genes. -Right, with your-- your genes, you'll be able to get that profile and be able to have more targeted therapies and so on. There's also the issue of privacy. Once we aggregate, you got all these devices sending data and aggregating that data about your health and giving you some tips on, you know, how you can improve your health or determining how well the medicines that you're taking are doing. I mean, what are the privacy concerns that you see that have to be dealt with immediately? -Well, the privacy concerns around everything happening at the moment with data, health data, pictures, everything. But I really think that the advantages of collecting data outweigh the risks, and there are ways in which we can make sure that privacies are protected. I don't think we should be afraid of aggregating our data because the harm of not having all our data in one place is so visible and so clear that I think it's worth taking that risk. -So there-- there's risk in the transparency-- -Yes. -but, it's something that's ultimately, it's gonna benefit people's health. -Absolutely. -Thanks very much. -Thank you. Thank you.