The Daily Matter

Microsoft Bra? Tech giant developing 'smart bra' that can sense a person's mood

Researchers design special sensors that can be attached to a bra to monitor stress levels

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 December, 2013, 6:23pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 December, 2013, 6:38pm

It probably won’t come to a store near you just yet, but Microsoft researchers are exploring a novel way of helping emotional eaters by creating a "smart bra" - or rather, a device that detects stress from inside a woman’s bra.

Sensors placed on the strap and under the cup monitor heart and skin activity to determine the wearer’s mood. The device then sends the information via Bluetooth to a smartphone that prompts users to try deep breathing exercises when stress levels get too high.

“Our goal is to provide an intervention before the person turns to food for emotional support," wrote the project's design team, a group of researchers from Microsoft's visualisation and interaction research group that collaborated with the University of Rochester and the University of Southampton.  

Four women at Microsoft's research lab tested the electrocardiogram (EKG) and electrodermal activity (EDA) sensors of the device, inserting them into their own bras, along with an accelerometer, gyroscope and a GRASP board. Over four days, the women reported their emotions for four to six hours each day.

“It was very tedious for the the [sensors] had to be charged every three to four hours, which resulted in participants having to finagle with their wardrobes throughout the day,” researchers wrote.

Microsoft's smart bra is part of a user study designed to explore emotional eating patterns, the feasibility of emotional eating interventions and emotion detection.

“I noticed more how I was feeling when I ate, and this was not something you normally stop to think about,” said one participant in the study.

But with only about two-fifths of the small 12-person study reporting behavioural changes by logging their emotions, researchers concluded that “most needed something extra to incent real change.”

The team also tried to develop designs for men’s underwear, but the sensors were too far away from the heart to be effective. They are now testing bracelets.

This is not the first time bras have been hooked up to technology. In India, after a series of rapes; engineering students developed a bra that delivers electric shocks to anyone attempting to grope a woman.

Obesity resulting from overeating and emotional eating is a global problem. Once considered confined to high-income countries, it is dramatically on the rise in low and middle-income nations. In 2008, more than 1.4 billion adults, 20 and older, were overweight. Of these over 200 million men and nearly 300 million women were considered obese, according to the World Health Organisation.