'Smartbra’ To Combat Stress-Related Overeating Is A Bust

By Barbara Hollingsworth | December 6, 2013 | 11:01 AM EST


(CNSNews.com) –  There are smartphones and smart appliances, but Microsoft has discovered that smart technology goes only so far. The tech giant has decided not to pursue the idea of a “smartbra” with embedded sensors dreamed up by a team of researchers to combat stress-related overeating.

The ultimate goal of the team led by Mary Czerwinski, a research manager in Microsoft’s Visualization and Interaction Research Group, was not to make a bra, a Microsoft spokesman told CNSNews.com, but to figure out ways to use behavior modification to prevent emotional overeating.

The team came up with two mobile phone apps for “tracking emotions, food, and receiving interventions.” They also designed “a novel, wearable sensor system for detecting emotions…This system consisted of physiological sensors which were placed into women’s brassieres.”  The sensors measured heart and respiration rates and streamed the information to a smartphone.

“The bra form-factor was ideal because it allowed us to collect EKG near the heart,” researchers said.  (See FoodMood.pdfCzerwinski told Discovery News that “we tried to do the same thing for men’s underwear but it was too far away (from the heart).”

But the idea proved to be a bust because of the same technological pitfall plaguing all-electric “smartcars”: limited range. The smartbra battery pack only lasted four hours before it needed to be recharged.

“Participants wore the bra sensing system and reported their emotions for about 4-6 hours a day over a period of approximately four days,” researchers reported. “It was very tedious for participants to wear our prototyped sensing system, as the boards had to be recharged every 3-4 hours, which resulted in participants having to finagle with their wardrobe throughout the day.”

“The bra sensing system is just one instance of a class of work from a group of Microsoft researchers who are focused on the broader topic of affective computing, or designing devices and services that  are sensitive to people’s moods and react accordingly,” the company spokesman told CNSNews.com. “While we will continue our research in affective computing, Microsoft has no plans to develop a bra with sensors.”

However, Microsoft researchers will continue to explore other ways to provide people with biofeedback to help prevent stress-related overeating.

“Building a wearable, physiological system is feasible. However, we will continue to explore how to build a robust, real-world system that stands up to everyday challenges with regards to battery life, comfortability, and being suitable for both men and women,” they concluded.