Bra detects change in mood to help prevent emotional eating

2 January 2014

A bra with sensors that monitor heart and skin activity can detect changes in mood, with the ultimate aim of preventing emotionally-triggered overeating in women.

The bra is a result of a study called ‘Food and Mood: Just-in-Time Support for Emotional Eating,’ authored by researchers from the University of Southampton, Microsoft Research and the University of Rochester, US.

The study set out to develop an intervention that is triggered before someone reaches for food as a means of emotional support. It suggested the smart bra and matching phone apps as possible solutions. The apps had the user log their emotions and what they had eaten every hour, then suggested calming breathing exercises when the user was stressed. The smart bra took the idea one step further by adding physical data to the emotions so they can be detected without prompting the user to log every hour.

The prototype bra

The prototype bra contains sensors that monitor electrodermal activity or EMA (a measure of sweat gland activity), electrocardiogram or EKG (heart rate and respiration) data, and movement from an accelerometer and gyroscope integrated in removable conducive pads, to provide an idea of the user's mood and highlight when ‘emotional eating’ is likely to occur.

The study found that the prototype could identify emotions with accuracy “significantly better than chance” and “at par with other affect recognition systems.”

Co-author Professor MC Schraefel, from the Department of Electronics and Computer Science and who leads the human performance design lab at the University of Southampton, said: “Emotional state, habitual practices, like snacking in front of the TV or grabbing a cookie when stressed, often go undetected by us — that’s the nature of habits — but they have real effects on our wellbeing. Our work in this project, while early, shows that there is potential to design interactive technologies to work with us, to help us develop both awareness of our state, and offer options we’ve decided we’d rather take, to build new practices and support our wellbeing.”

Harry Wood


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