#Trending: Tech v stress

Our trend this week is the confusing world of mood monitoring wearables
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Going into 2015, wearable tech isn't just promising to make you fit not fat, it wants to relax and de-stress you too. It seems every other wearable launch these days claims to be a sip of camomile tea in a wristband or the biometrically equipped, tech equivalent of a warm, sandy beach in May.

Take Intel's Smart Spider Dress - it has built-in respiration sensors which activate its 'friendly fire' mode if anyone approaching the wearer causes alarm. The Zensorium Being watch, demoed at CES, tracks mood via measuring heart rate and blood pressure. And MoodMetric is the next-gen mood ring that measures galvanic skin response (essentially how sweaty you get) and is trying to get its crowdfunding campaign going.

The problem, of course, is that all sorts of companies are realising that we want to be healthy in the mind as much as we want to be healthy in the body. And a "quick fix" here is just as welcome. Just be careful - a medical grade wristband, aimed at epilepsy sufferers, that's been iterated on since 2007 by MIT scientists and others, is a very different beast to a concentration enhancing helmet with no studies to back it up.

When in doubt, look for headlines without the hype, large and long term case studies as well as scientists and researchers either on staff or consulting the engineers and designers building these stress busting wearables.

We're not saying these devices won't have an effect, the potential is hugely exciting - our brains could end up a bit like that Bradley Cooper film Limitless just, you know, about 100 times less lame.

What we are saying is beware of the pseudo-science, read the reviews and watch before you wear.

WEAR - Embrace


This stress measuring wrist wearable combines serious science with design that wouldn't look out of place on the walls of MoMA. Embrace monitors electrodermal activity (sweat-induced moisture) to provide stress, sleep and activity feedback via the slick-looking Embrace Mate app. It's based on the same tech as a medical device, the E3, used by hospitals, Ivy League universities and NASA.

The science behind Embrace has been published in top medical journals so the tech is legit. And it's actually designed to be worn by people with epilepsy to warn them when a seizure is likely. Still, the polished metal and Italian leather look anything but medical. No surprise then that Empatica has quadrupled its Indiegogo target of $100,000. The campaign runs until 21 January and for each wearable that's bought via the Indiegogo pledge, a kid with epilepsy will get a free one.

SQUARE - Melomind


Rather than alert you to when you're particularly stressed like Embrace does, myBrain the makers of Melomind want you to get more (self) involved with their uber geeky de-stress helmet.

It's a $299 EEG headset that is supposed to be worn for 15 minute sessions at home or in the office (yeah, right) in order to read, and ultimately train, brain activity. myBrain's algorithms measure how relaxed you are and translate this into distracting or relaxing audio - your job is to relax enough to get the nice music. Biofeedback itself has long been debated in the health community. The company doesn't have studies to compare Melomind's results to the medical kit used in hospital settings yet, though these are planned.

Of course Melomind could turn out to work as claimed but we'd rather meditate or have a nap than stick this thing on and listen to horrible, distracting sounds for half an hour a week.



This prototype was taken to CES to prove the tech is sound. Thync isn't a finished product yet but the seems-like-magic wearable that sticks to your forehead actually promises to change your mood. There's two options - boosting relaxation (Calm) and increasing alertness (Energy) and early reports are, well, that it works.

We also don't have any pics of the mystery wearable as the company aren't ready to show off the design yet. That's a bit annoying but we're willing to be patient.

The device alters brain activity via the electrodes (transcranial direct current stimulation) and, according to the website, over 1000 peer reviewed studies of over 20,000 sessions support the approach used here. Thync's execs say they will have FDA approval as a medical device by the end of 2015 and that it will be 'affordable'. And don't sweat it, we'll keep you up to date on the device's progress.

What do you think about so-called stress busting wearables? Would you try one? Let us know in the comments.


How we test


Sophie was Wareable's associate editor. She joined the team from Stuff magazine where she was an in-house reviewer. For three and a half years, she tested every smartphone, tablet, and robot vacuum that mattered. 

A fan of thoughtful design, innovative apps, and that Spike Jonze film, she is currently wondering how many fitness tracker reviews it will take to get her fit. Current bet: 19.

Sophie has also written for a host of sites, including Metro, the Evening Standard, the Times, the Telegraph, Little White Lies, the Press Association and the Debrief.

She now works for Wired.

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