Stress-buster: Microsoft bra battles emotional overeating

A prototype bra from Microsoft researchers uses sensors to follow the wearer's mood with a goal of helping prevent stress-related eating.

Bra illustration
Are you ready for a smart bra? Steifer

Microsoft researchers aren't just thinking about operating systems. They're thinking about undergarments with a purpose, specifically a smart bra that monitors the wearer's mood with the aim of preventing stress-related overeating.

Mary Czerwinski, a research manager with Microsoft's Visualization and Interaction Research Group, is studying how technology can help detect stress and give people tools for dealing with it. One of her recent projects involved the creation of a bra with embedded electrocardiogram and electrodermal activity sensors (PDF), as well as a gyroscope and accelerometer.

"It's mostly women who are emotional overeaters, and it turns out that a bra is perfect for measuring EKG," Czerwinski told Discovery News.

Test subjects wore the removable sensors with their own personal bras, so it wasn't one-size-fits-all. Data from the sensors was sent to a smartphone app so the women could track their moods. The researchers were able to see whether the women were stressed based on the collected signals, proving that a wearable, mobile mood-detection system is feasible.

The idea behind the prototype project is that women who have feedback about their moods can see the signs of stress that lead to overeating and make better decisions. The bra is simply a comfortable and discrete way to wear the sensors, though battery life was limited to about four hours.

The researchers attempted to create a similar garment in the form of men's underwear, but the nether-location was too far from the heart to be effective. The work could lead to wearable garments that send alerts to users when it detects stress conditions that can lead to emotional eating.

Don't worry, fellas, you may get your own sensor device soon. The researchers write, "We will continue to explore how to build a robust, real-world system that stands up to everyday challenges with regards to battery life, comfortability, and being suitable for both men and women."

 

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