Fashion

12.03.13

Can This Mood-Sensing Bra Curb Overeating?

Put down that chocolate bar! Researchers at Microsoft may have found the key to helping women curb stress-induced overeating: a new smart bra.

Does a turbulent episode of The Voice send you running to the freezer for a bowl of Häagen Dazs? During finals, is your desk covered in candy wrappers? When a deal is about to close at work, is there always a bag of Skittles within reach? A recent study shows that half of the United States population admits to stress eating, which may lead to obesity or trigger a dangerous stress-overeating-obesity-stress cycle. With more than half of those stress-eaters being women, a group of engineers and designers at Microsoft have been tinkering with a new idea: a mood-sensing bra that can help regulate overeating.

As luck would have it, the bra turned out to be the perfect device for measuring heart rate, breathing, skin conductivity (sweating), and movement. Mary Czerwinski, a cognitive psychologist and senior researcher at Microsoft, and her fellow researchers equipped several bras with a set of sensors, a microprocessor, and a 3.7 volt battery, and then gave them to volunteers to road test. The sensors beamed the information to an app on their smartphones and, over time, the Microsoft team could determine factors that predicted a bout of stress eating.

The idea is that by acknowledging one's stress-eating triggers, the wearers can curb overeating tendencies. Unfortunately, the stress-busting bra probably won’t be at a store near you anytime soon; the sensors used up so much juice in the trial that the batteries only lasted four hours. Plus, while most overeaters are women, there’s still a lot of guys out there who reach for a bag of Dorito’s during crunch time—and who may not be willing to don a bra to get the same results. Czerwinski admitted, "We tried to do the same thing for men's underwear but it was too far away [from the heart]." With undies out and bras questionable, Czerwinski and her team are looking for other parts of the body to target—specifically the feet. [Discovery]