Microsoft Smart Bra Can Measure Stress Levels

A weight management bra, developed by engineers at Microsoft Research. This device is still in the development stage.
A weight management bra, developed by engineers at Microsoft Research. This device is still in the development stage.

Dec. 19, 2013- (Qmed) Engineers at Microsoft Research are taking on the world of weight management with a bra designed to measure heart and skin activity to gauge stress levels. When the device detects high stress levels, it offers advice via a smartphone app to curb emotional overeating. For instance, the app could alert the wearer that she should breathe deeply when stressed.

Heart rate data is measured using an EKG sensor, while skin conductance is gauged using an electrodermal activity sensor. An accelerometer and gyroscope collect motion data. All of the metrics are streamed to a smarphone app and beamed to the cloud.

Support for the device comes from an article titled “Food and Mood: Just-in-Time Support for Emotional Eating,” which explores the link between overconsumption of food and stress.

While the device has gotten attention from the press, it’s unlikely that it will be hitting the market soon. As of now, the device has a sensor pads with a microprocessor powered by a 3.7-volt battery that works for four hours, limiting its viability during a 16-hour day. In addition, a number of ethical questions could impact the reception of a product like this.

While weight management is important for people of both genders, a product that provides feedback for women to prevent “irrational” behavior could be perceived as a negative for Microsoft. While societal attitudes towards women in the developed world continue to evolve in a positive way, a product that targets negative emotional eating in women may not be market-sound.

According to one German research study, eating may not lead to obesity. While diet and exercise levels can vary on an individual basis, some research shows that high stress levels can decrease food consumption in test subjects. Based on this, some researchers believe that stress-related food consumption should not be considered a weight gain risk factor by default.

While future iterations of the device may improve its marketability, the Microsoft weight management bra is likely to remain a research project for now.

The specialized bra includes a variety of sensors that can track a woman’s movement levels, skin conductance, respiration and heart rate. If data from these sensors indicate that a woman is experiencing stress, an alert is sent to a specialized smartphone app. The app provides support for women and can help them minimize stress-induced eating, according to researchers.

While engineering is a field dominated by men, the Microsoft bra wasn’t developed without significant input from female coworkers. “It’s mostly women who are emotional over-eaters, and it turns out that a bra is perfect for measuring EKG (electrocardiogram),” states Mary Czerwinski, a senior Microsoft researcher. She noted that her team did try to develop an underwear-styled device for men, but the device was too far from the heart to pick up on an individual’s stress levels.

This article is originally published at Qmed.

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