Most of the wearable tech you can strap on your wrist or put in your pocket focuses on physical health–how many steps you take a day, or how much you’re tossing and turning at night. The latest generation of wearables are attempting to go a little deeper and keep track of how you’re feeling.
“Imagine an interface that indicates levels of happiness and sadness–sentiment maps of your individual life,” say Nancy Tilbury and Benjamin Males from Studio XO, one of the companies experimenting with the new mood trackers. “What we learn when introducing the emotional metric is fundamental to the technology of tomorrow, as we move from intelligent to sensitive computing.”
Studio XO’s XOX platform includes a silicone wristband that measures biometric data and flashes in various colors–sort of like a mood ring–to give a visual signal about how someone is feeling. The device also broadcasts the data wirelessly to a server, so it can be shared with others.
For Studio XO, a fashion and technology company that works on concert production with artists like Lady Gaga and Arcade Fire, most of the focus so far has been on how tracking mood could change entertainment. The company tested out their tech at Cannes earlier this year, when 2,300 people donned the wristbands during an ad industry event, and watched as their feelings were broadcast onstage in infographic form.
The designers envision concerts where the audience becomes as much a part of the show as the person. “We’re creating intimate moments and breaking down the walls and barriers between artist, brand, and fan,” explain Tilbury and Males.
Emotional data is also exactly the kind of thing that marketers would love to have, though it’s not clear how many people would actually want to broadcast how they’re feeling when they watch an ad or shop at a store.
Perhaps most interesting is how mood-tracking devices might help people better understand how they’re feeling. Though it might seem obvious whether you’re happy or not, most of us aren’t particularly conscious of exactly how stressed out we are at work, or how our moods change over time.
It’s the kind of data that could be useful in the moment–one new device, the Spire, notices when you’re getting tense and helps you change breathing patterns to calm down.
Still, like some other wearables, it’s not clear how useful this type of information is over time without context. If you can’t see what was going on when you felt a particular feeling, it’s hard to understand any long-term patterns or necessarily make changes. Wristbands might have to evolve a little more before they can really make us happier.