Doctor knows breast: Microsoft working on a ‘smart bra’ to help stop emotional binge eating
A diagram of the prototype bra. (UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER/MICROSOFT RESEARCH.)
Put the Ben and Jerry’s down. Microsoft researchers have been developing a mood-sensing ‘smart bra’ that could prevent overeating when stressed.
Those who head straight to KFC when stressed, anxious, upset or worried will know the feelings of brief satisfaction followed by wallowing guilt. But this vicious cycle could be intervened before it even happens thanks to a ‘smart bra’ from Microsoft that offers “just-in-time-support for emotional eating”.
The ‘smart bra’ is fitted with sensors that monitor real-time bio-signals such as heart rate and respiration, which are key emotional signs Microsoft has identified prior to an emotional binge, and will intervene.
It then streams the data via Bluetooth to a mobile phone, alerting the wearer that the chance of stress-related eating is about to occur.
The study revealed those who were made aware of their eating habit are more likely to think twice about opening the fridge.
High stress can trigger emotional overeating in both women and men, although a Microsoft executive told Discovery News that it was mainly women who succumbed.
In a paper outlining the results of a pilot project involving four women who wore the prototype garments, researchers said information on stress levels delivered in a timely fashion “served as a health intervention to encourage the person to be more active or consume less food”.
One participant of the study noted: “I 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.”
While another stated: “I became more conscious when I was about to eat or drink and self-reﬂected on why I was consuming something.”
Why Microsoft chose a bra for their high-tech system is because “the bra form-factor allowed us to collect EKG (electrocardiagram) near the heart,” the researchers stated. However the prototype was limited because its batteries only lasted for four hours at a time, they said.
“We conclude that building a wearable, physiological system (to combat overeating) is feasible.
However, we will continue to explore how to build a robust, real-world system that stands up to every day challenges with regards to battery life, comfortability, and being suitable for both men and women,” the researchers said.
In other news relating to the convergence of technology and undergarments, a Japanese toy manufacturer is reporting strong sales after releasing a series of underwear for mobile phones.
The snug rubber items fit over the base of a mobile phone, protecting the on switch from accidental pressings. They make a phone look less naked – and yet somehow more sexual – at the same time.