This could be the biggest thing to hit the world of intimate apparel in years – and the biggest boon for creative hackers, too.
A prototype for a “smart bra” that can detect the presence of stress in the wearer has been designed by Microsoft scientists and other researchers. Removable sensors in the bra – or battery powered “conductive pads” – monitor heart and skin activity to determine the wearer’s mood levels and how mood changes might contribute to stress-induced overeating.
The mood data is streamed to the wearer via a smartphone app – and helps to indicate when emotional eating is most likely to occur so that those impulses can be redirected, according to a BBC report.
In their paper, published online and entitled “Food and Mood: Just-in-Time Support for Emotional Eating,” the researchers said using a bra “was ideal because it allowed us to collect EKG [data] near the heart.”
With emotional eating, they said, their goal “is to provide an intervention before the [stressed] person turns to food for emotional support… This is the first study that we are aware of that makes use of wearable, mobile sensors for detecting emotions…. Based on the results, we conclude that building a wearable, physiological system is feasible.”
The researchers caution that right now sensors need to be recharged every few hours and that the smart bra is uncomfortable when worn for hours at a time.
The scientists involved in the project are from Microsoft, the University of Rochester and the University of Southampton in the U.K.
One participant of the study noted that she was “eating without being aware of it, but by having to log both my eating habits and my emotions, I became aware of triggers for emotional eating, and also more aware of the health (or lack thereof) in my diet.”
A spokesperson from Microsoft told CNN in an email that the “bra sensing system is just one instance of a class of work from a group of Microsoft researchers that is focused on the broader topic of affecting computing, or designed devices and services that are sensitive to people’s moods and react accordingly.”
The spokesperson also said, “While we will continue our research in affective computing, Microsoft has no plans to develop a bra with sensors.”
The researchers have a bold plan, however. They say they want to build a robust system that “stands up to everyday challenges with regards to battery life, comfortability and suitability for both men and women.”
Wearable tech is hardly a new idea, of course – but the intimate apparel applications have some people unnerved. On Twitter, a woman named Rachel Happe tweeted, “If nothing else convinces you we need more women in tech, this should. No, I don’t want someone hacking my bra…”
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