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'Smart bra' could help stop women over eating
IT'S the bra that could be the end of obesity.
A professor from the University of Southampton has helped design a 'smart bra' that could stop women overeating.
Prof M.C. Schraefel, professor in computer science and human performance design, co-authored a study by Southampton, Microsoft Research and the University of Rochester in New York which produced the bra.
Prof Schraefel said: “Emotional state, habitual practices, like snacking in front of the television or grabbing a cookie when stressed, often go undetected by us - that's the nature of habits - but they have real effects on our wellbeing.
“Our work in this project, while early, shows that there is potential to design interactive technologies to work with us, to help us develop both awareness of our state, and offer options we've decided we'd rather take, to build new practices and support our wellbeing.”
The prototype, currently in the USA, contains removable sensors that monitor heart and skin activity and the data is processed to determine the wearer's emotional state and track mood changes.
It then sends an alert via a smartphone app to highlight when emotional eating is likely to occur. The technology is almost invisible and was designed with comfort in mind.
But the bra is not ready for production yet as the battery needs to be charged every four hours.
Prof Schraefel, a Canadian who has been at the university for 10 years, said it could be ready in 18 months if a company decided to develop it.
She said: “Development is not our call as researchers but if someone wanted to pick it up I would be surprised if it wasn't ready in a year or 18 months.
“It would need a power supply but I know colleagues are working on smart fabrics with sensors woven in already.”
The study, called Food and Mood: Just-in-Time Support for Emotional Eating, investigated methods of stopping people using food as emotional support.
It began with people logging their emotions and what they had eaten ever hour on apps, which suggested calming breathing exercises as an alternative to food when the user was stressed.
The bra took it one step further by adding physical data that can be detected without user involvement.
The three-and-a-half-month project took place in summer 2012 in Washington state, USA.
According to the study the bra can identify emotions with accuracy “significantly better than chance”.
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