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U-Wake’s wearable brainwave sensor sends alerts to reduce driving fatigue

Have you ever nodded off while driving, only to be jolted back into consciousness at freeway speeds?

If you have, you’ll know that it’s a terrifying feeling, and it’s one that the U-Wake wearable brainwave sensor is looking to combat.

The unit, which rests on a driver’s forehead like a headband, measures the brain’s electrical pulses similar to a hospital EEG device. Since the brainwaves of a sleeping person are much different than those of someone who is awake, the sensor can calculate a person’s level of fatigue. According to the company, these levels can be read with 90 percent accuracy.

The signals are then gathered and sent to the company’s smartphone app via Bluetooth connection, which uses a special algorithm to determine a fatigue score. The app displays the score on a 0 to 100 scale, with a level of 80 or higher being “unsuitable to operate motor vehicle.”

U-Wake brainwave sensor

The concept comes from U-Wake founder Sam Wu, whose friend was struck by a drowsy driver in 2012. And he’s not alone; U-Wake reports that fatigued driving causes approximately 100,000 accidents per year, which results in 71,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths annually.

The project is currently on Kickstarter, where backers can pledge varying amounts of money in return for scaled rewards. Bounties include an embroidered U-Wake cap for $35, the brainwave sensor itself for $185, and if you’re feeling extra generous, full partner status for $10,000.

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“The idea of U-Wake was conceived when we noticed that there weren’t enough devices that alert users they are experiencing driving fatigue BEFORE it takes place,” said Wu. “Therefore, we set out to create something that will do exactly that to help users understand their alertness and take necessary actions when experiencing fatigue.”

In the future, U-Wake hopes to expand the sensor’s applications beyond the driver’s seat. These developments are still a long way away, but the company says the device could potentially use brainwave analysis to help people relax and improve memory.

In order to receive full funding, U-Wake needs to raise $200,000 by January 31st. As of this writing, the team has 19 backers with a total of $2,248 pledged.