Microsoft researchers develop mood-sensing ‘smart bra’

Microsoft researchers have done what many super-nerds only dream about: They got into women’s underwear.

Okay, that’s not quite fair. What they actually did was develop a “smart bra” that senses the mood of whomever wears it to help combat “emotional eating.” And it actually seems to work.

The prototype smart bra contains a number of sensors that can detect a handful of emotions by monitoring heart rate and skin activity (like sweating). The smart bra also packs in a 2-axis gyroscope and a 3-axis accelerometer, which it uses to figure out when someone is scarfing down some sheet cake.

Using machine learning, the smart bra was then able to figure out when the person wearing it was in a mental state that triggered overeating for emotional reasons. According to a paper released by the researchers (PDF), the bra successfully detected rising negative emotions roughly 75 percent of the time. This was backed up by emotional data recorded by the study’s participants in an appropriately named app called EmoTree.

“This is the first study, that we are aware of, that makes use of wearable, mobile sensors for detecting emotions,” the team wrote. “The bra form-factor was ideal because it allowed us to collect EKG [activity] near the heart.”

In the next phase of the experiment, Microsoft’s researchers plan to develop a system that delivers an “appropriately timed, personalized intervention” that will alert the wearer when they are likely to kill a pint of Ben & Jerry’s because they’re upset or stressed out.

Microsoft is not the only company to pack tech into a brassiere. Earlier this year, ad agency OgilvyOne Athens announced the Tweeting Bra, which sends out a tweet every time the undergarment is removed as a way to remind women to check themselves for signs of breast cancer.

Is Microsoft’s smart bra taking wearable tech in the right direction, or bringing it a little too close for comfort?

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