Mood-Ring Bra

Today a friend of mine posted about this Microsoft Prototype Product. It is a “smart bra” that has sensors and electronics built right into the bra. I was interested as this has some great medical potential. However, I read the article and found that the whole thing made me pretty uncomfortable. Here they are with this great tech – the ability to build sensors that detect mood, heart rate, breathing patterns – right into a bra that many people need to wear anyways and they are using it to help women identify when they are upset so they won’t be emotional eaters. Of all of the ways this could help someone stay healthy, why is it being used to predict when you might overeat?

My first thought was, why aren’t they using this technology to predict when an asthma attack is going to occur, or for patients of heart disease? Why isn’t this tech being used somehow in the advancement of the research and treatment of anxiety or panic disorders?

And will this even work? Will identifying yourself as anxious or upset or emotional in whatever way that causes you to want to eat a sweet delicious buttery and/or chocolatey cookie actually change whether you eat that cookie? When I’m emotional, the last thing I need is a piece of technology shaming me for my emotions. Perhaps that shaming is going to make me want to eat two cookies. Is the next step adding some negative stimuli or punishment if you actually eat the cookie? (zzzzap) Perhaps send a note to someone else to prevent you from eating? That wouldn’t cause anyone to get emotional at all.

Why does it have to be about dieting and eating? Emotional eating is a symptom, not a cause. I can see how someone might discover this use somewhere down the line, but this product was designed to be used that way. Wouldn’t the ability to detect emotions and mood be a helpful tool during therapy? It could be used to chart mood and emotion in daily life, helping people identify things that are causing them anxiety or heightened emotions. It could help a therapist determine what course of treatment to take to help a patient address the situations that are most challenging for them. It could be used to track emotions to see how a patient is responding to a new medication or a new therapeutic approach. As it is, it’s just the mood ring of bras – shame it doesn’t just change colours.

And while I understand they were trying to build it into something that someone will be wearing day-to-day, this ends up being a very gendered/size specific product. Men generally do not wear a bra; are there no men that could benefit from this product? I have to shop at specialty stores for my bras; would this be produced in a size that would fit me? When there isn’t tech built in, it’s hard to find a bra that fits just right – now am I to feel ashamed that I can’t fit into this fit-making product? Wouldn’t it be so much more useful as a band that you wear around your chest? Making them in a few customizable lengths could make this a product usable by anyone and would cost WAY less to produce and buy. (Note: I’ve since learned that the prototype was a sensor system that attaches to a user’s preexisting bra – doesn’t this seem like a better idea?)

If this were a band instead of a bra, could it also be used to monitor a fetus in a non-invasive way? Could a tiny version be made to monitor for breathing or heart rate irregularities of a sleeping infant? Or measure the emotional state of an awake one? Could it predict heart attacks and track emotions and mood in relation to heart function?

And really, while my husband might appreciate an email letting him know I’m getting upset or anxious and to tread lightly, I’m still not sure that’s the best use for this technology.