Thursday, June 26, 2008

Biofeedback tools for consumers

A long-term interest of mine has been biofeedback, using technology to gain insight into our own behavior and supporting our efforts to improve ourselves.

I was really excited to learn a consumer product is now available to help with biofeedback, the StressEraser. This product gives you a visual display of your heart rate. Then through focused breathing you can see how you are affecting your heart rate. This product is top on my wish list for this year.

A friend of mine, Matthew Lindgren, told me about a much cooler biofeedback device, OpenEEG. This device would show you your EEG to give you a sense of your own brain activity while you are meditating, etc. While StressEraser is very cool and commercially available, OpenEEG would show you something about your body that you probably cannot detect. It's hard to monitor your breathing, but you can do it. But monitoring your own brain activity is really hard because it's difficult to detect anything without technology and, moreover, monitoring your brain is hard because you need your brain to monitor your brain. Only a tool could help in this situation.

I've thought of other biofeedback tools but they'd require a level of sensing we may not have technology for yet. Imagine one that would help you lose weight by detecting the causes of the hunger in the first place, allowing you to manage yourself before you get hungry. Another idea is something that would help you achieve your goals by reminding you to do a particular action whenever you find yourself in the situation where you want to start doing this particular action. This would be much better than a device that would simply trigger at a particular time of day like an alarm. It would have the ability to detect when you're feeling sad or angry, allowing you to choose a different course of action if you have anger management problems. Or it could alert you when you're feeling anxiety that you may not notice yourself in a stressful situation. Knowing you're anxious could help you realize to do some simple things like breathe to calm yourself down. Or suppose you want to learn to smile more when you meet people. The device could detect when you've met someone and alert you to smile.

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