Like counting steps and counting calories burned, battling stress isn’t new territory for a smartwatch. Apple’s Watch can remind you to take a moment of mindfulness and breathing during the day, and some of Samsung’s Galaxy Watches will try to guess your current stress level by looking at patterns in your heartbeat.
But more than anything, Fitbit — which Google acquired in early 2021 to help flesh out its health and hardware initiatives — is trying to position high-end wearables like the $299 Sense 2 as tools for us. help to think about the stress we face every day.
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What might be most interesting about the Sense 2’s approach is how responsive it all is – it won’t make you think about the nature of your stress unless it thinks you’ve just had it. do the experience. And to do that, it needs to take a pretty broad look at how your body is acting in real time, even if you’re not fully aware of it.
The key to spotting that stress in the moment, according to Fitbit, is the “Body Response” sensor built into the Sense 2. In addition to looking at your heart rate and tracking your skin temperature, the watch has a tool to measure continuously your electrodermal activity. – basically, a scientific measurement of the changing sweat levels in your skin.
Even if you’re not someone who sweats it out when things go wrong, these micro changes in the sweat content of your skin can indicate different types of emotional arousal, including the onset of stress. And when the algorithm determines that the mixture of sweat, heart rate, heart rate variability and body temperature seems out of whack, the Sense 2 will pop up a notification on its screen to contact you – a few minutes later, anyway. .
“A few hours later, you probably forgot what was going on,” said Elena Perez, group product manager at Fitbit. “At the moment, you may not be in the frame of mind to really think things through if you’re going through a stressful situation.”
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As part of this recording, the Sense 2 asks its owner what they just felt – an important question given that, physiologically, cues like an increased heart rate and elevated temperature can mean a lot of things. If you feel like sharing, you can tell the watch you’re frustrated, worried, sad, or excited and see some suggestions for dealing with those feelings in the moment. (Think guided breathing exercises or a short walk.)
Because the Sense 2 won’t go on sale until the fall, however, it’s not yet clear how much it can actually Sustain our stress levels.
“It’s entirely possible to infer stress using electrodermal activity and heart rate,” according to Rose Faghih, associate professor of biomedical engineering at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering. Faghih’s research aims to measure mental activity using a similar set of sensors, though she can’t fully vouch for Fitbit’s approach.
“It really depends on the quality of the sensor,” she said.
And while some people may benefit from a wearable accessory that suggests ways to deal with tough times, some experts say those who regularly feel beset by stress should look beyond gadgets.
“It’s not equally accessible to everyone, but seeing a trained therapist I think can do a better job of helping people design an individualized way of approaching what they think isn’t a moment their lives,” said Mark Seery, a stress researcher at the University at Buffalo. “Relying on a Fitbit to kind of be a proxy for something like this – I wouldn’t be super excited to recommend it.”