The mood ring, which became popular during the 1970s, is getting the high-tech treatment. A startup known as Happy Health is gearing up to release a smart ring that is designed to assess the user’s emotional state. But instead of flashing colors, the device uses biometric sensors and artificial intelligence to monitor a person’s stress levels in real time.
The “Happy Ring” can’t exactly turn your frown into a smile, but it’s true that our emotional states have an effect on the body. However, the company says the product isn’t meant to be used as a diagnostic tool. It believes it has found a way to help individuals keep track of their mental health on the ring just like they would track the number of steps they’ve walked on a Fitbit.
Happy Health isn’t the only one trying to get into the wearable mental health market. Apple is working with UCLA to see if the Apple Watch can be used to diagnose symptoms related to anxiety, depression, and even cognitive decline.
Tinder founder Sean Rad worked with LVL Technologies founder Dustin Freckleton to see if a piece of technology could give insights into a person’s mood.
“There were all of these wearables that helped you understand your physical fitness or sleep,” says Rad. “But they were really ignoring the elephant, which is your mind. They weren’t doing anything when it came to mental health or mental states. We asked the question: can we somehow build a device that can passively start to monitor what’s going on in your brain? If we can do that, can we help people better understand, have the language and better identify what they can do to improve their mental health?”
The device uses a custom-built EDA (electrodermal activity as its differentiator. Fitbit created its own version of this technology, but the Happy Ring EDA tracks stress levels instead of steps walked. However, the creators decided to change the focus from “stress” to “mental health.”
“If you’re public speaking, you’re going on a first date, you’re interviewing for a job, your hands start to sweat a little bit,” explains Freckleton. “That is the emotional sweat response. There are evolutionary reasons why that occurs. The EDA sensor is specifically designed to pick up those tiny changes that occur as a result of micro sweats on the skin and are a result of the activation of the autonomic nervous system.”
Users will be able to access their results in the app on their smartphone. Tapping into one’s own mental health could be big business. The company just received over $60 million in funding.
“We tell you about your mood on an ongoing basis, so you understand when you’re calm, alert, or tense,” says Rad. “And we take all that data and personalize exercises for you that are scientifically proven to help manage your stress and improve your mood and overall well being.”
The app will suggest exercises like deep breathing, medication, and cognitive behavioral therapy-based journaling. The user will be able to complete these actions in the app.
“Funding went to research development and manufacturing of, really, a best in class wearable device,” says Freckleton. “There’s no comparable device from a sensor level to data quality level to AI infrastructure level.”
Pre-ordering for the device starts today. There is no upfront cost for the hardware, just a $20 monthly fee, which includes sleep analysis, heart rate monitoring and journal prompts. Mindfulness content is still limited, and the company plans to partner with a third-party instead of producing its own.
It’s not clear how effective the device will be in practicality, but millions of people would likely be interested in learning more about their mental health.
“Every metric we’re giving you on your mind is actually real time,” says Rad. “So you could literally do something, open the app and see the result right away. But we also give you CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) exercises, breathing exercises, meditation, educational pieces — different things that are tailored to help you improve.”