Microsoft is now in the research and development stage to make a new intelligent bra that would theoretically sense when the wearer is stressed and prevent emotional eating – that craving for “comfort food,” which is usually fatty, greasy or full of calories, as a way to calm oneself down from worry, anxiety, or tension.
The ‘smart bra’ contains sensors that will monitor certain physiological changes that Microsoft believes are the precursor to emotional eating. When signs such as respiration and heart rate increase, the bra will intervene by using Bluetooth to send the data to a cell phone, which would then alert the bra wearer that an emotional binging episode may be about to occur.
The study, titled Food and Mood: Just-in-Time Support for Emotional Eating by a Microsoft Research team of five researchers showed that when people are notified that their eating is a habit in reaction to stress, they will reconsider eating. Although both men and women are susceptible to binge eating with high stress, an executive with Microsoft has stated that mainly women give in to the urge.
The end results of Microsoft’s test project to determine whether to now make the bras were based on four women who agreed to wear the ‘smart bra’ for four days. A sensor placed under the arm monitored the heart rate while another sensor measured perspiration. The bra also managed to somehow include a gyroscope and an accelerometer, which might not be the worst idea depending upon the shape, density and placement of the instruments.
Alas, the women in the study, not having the same size breasts, wore their own bras in the study, but with removable sensors. All told, their bras were packed with enough instrumentation to measure respiration, heart rate, movement and skin conductance.
The researchers found that when information that higher stress levels were detected was delivered to the women in real time, they were encouraged to be active or to eat less. In fairness, researchers did attempt to design men’s underwear to serve the same purpose, but despite the opinion of women worldwide, the sensors were positioned too far from the man’s heart.
Why did Microsoft choose to deliver this technology in the form of a bra? Simply because the shape of the bra makes it easy for electrocardiagram (EKG) data near the heart to be collected. The prototype was not without fault – the batteries lasted only four hours, causing the women to go through a process described as “tedious” to change the batteries.
The bra was fairly accurate at measuring the wearer’s emotional state and correctly reported the emergent emotional states 75% of the time when compared to hourly mood reports made by the women and entered into their smartphones.
Microsoft researchers are now satisfied that the study supports the designing and making of a wearable system, such as a bra, to prevent overeating. They do, however, intend to continue their research so that a more durable, longer lasting and more comfortable version for both sexes can be found. Can anyone say “Bro?”
By Jennifer Pfalz