The Empatica team, lead by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor Dr. Rosalind W. Picard, began work on a wearable device that measures emotions, including stress back in 2007. The first iteration, called iCalm, was intended to measure stress levels, but one of Picard’s students found that it could also predict seizures. From then on, the team set to work on improving the sensors and ended up making several bulky medical devices that were used in hospitals and research centers. Now, Empatica has a new goal: getting its sensors on the wrists of ordinary people and those who are suffering from seizures.
Emaptica teamed up with Pearl Studios and the designers behind the Misfit Shine wearable fitness tracker to create a thin and attractive smartwatch that everyone will want to wear. The result, is what looks like an iPad Shuffle clipped onto a wide strap. The Embrace has a no-frills industrial design. There’s no touchscreen and no complicated clasp — you simply slap it on your wrist like one of those bracelets from the ’90s and go about your day. The surface is made of brushed metal and the band comes in different colored fabric and leather. It comes in multiple sizes, including one for children, many of whom often suffer from severe seizures.
Embrace tracks the wearer’s electrodermal activity (EDA) through small amounts of moisture that are emitted from the skin. It measures your flight or fight response to situations and thereby analyzes your stress level. The EDA measurement can also be used to predict the oncoming of a seizure, which helps medical professionals and parents prepare for seizures and even prevent them. Embrace can measure brain wave suppression, too, which happens during seizures when brain waves flatten to dangerous levels. Typically, patients have to wear an EEG (electroencephalogram) device to track brain waves. In addition, the smartwatch monitors temperature changes, and sports a gyroscope and accelerometers, which track your activity levels.
Embrace sounds like an amazing medical device that could help save seizure patients’ lives and a cool wearable that keeps tabs on your well-being and fitness levels. Empatica is currently offering a special promotion on Indiegogo, which allows you to buy one for yourself and offers a free Embrace smartwatch to a seizure patient who is in need for just $190. The campaign has already exceeded its fund raising goals, even though it has 23 days left on Indiegogo, as of this writing.