On the one hand, who hasn’t wished someone could jump in and say “Stop, you don’t want to eat that” somewhere in the middle of the fifth bowl of [insert your own guilty pleasure]? On the other hand, we sincerely hope that if Microsoft ever does introduce its “smart bra” — designed to help women from overeating in times of stress — that there’s a garment for men, too. Because goodness knows, we all need comfort food at one point or another. And also don’t tell me what to eat.
Because everything these days has to be a “smart” something, a team of researchers at Microsoft have been working on a prototype of a smart bra embedded with sensors that track the wearer’s heart activity, so that it can monitor her emotional moods and essentially intervene when she’s stressed out and tempted to overeat, reports CNN.
Once those sensors detect a looming episode of overeating, they signal the woman’s smartphone which will then flash a warning telling her to back away from the fridge and make better diet decisions. Which, again, not sure it’s cool for a bra to be telling people how to live their lives, but then again, if people want that help, sure, give it.
At the base of this effort is research that many people — male and female! — go for calorie-laden foods when they’re stressed out, sad, discouraged or otherwise testy. Comfort food is comforting, after all.
So why aim for women and not men? Simply because at the moment, a bra works best with the research.
“First, we needed a form factor that would be comfortable when worn for long durations,” said scientists the research paper (PDF). “The bra form factor was ideal because it allowed us to collect (electrocardiogram data) near the heart.”
Participants in the research were women in the UK who said that having someone or something intervene helped them know what triggered their binge eating.
The bra seemed to work well when it came to detecting its wearers’ emotional highs and lows, but it’s not likely we’ll be seeing this on the market any time soon: The sensors need to be recharged every three or four hours, which makes it a pretty inconvenient garment for all-day wear.
That, and Microsoft has no plans for a smart bra, a spokesman told CNN.
“The bra sensing system is just one instance of a class of work from a group of Microsoft researchers that is focused on the broader topic of affective computing, or designing devices and services that are sensitive to people’s moods and react accordingly,” the spokesperson said. “While we will continue our research in affective computing, Microsoft has no plans to develop a bra with sensors.”
So what about say, smart boxers/briefs for men tempted to indulge too much? It could happen, at least in research terms.
“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,” the researchers said in the paper.