Happy Ring’s EDA sensor tracks mental health instead of fitness

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Startup Happy Health is looking to give the mood ring a “smart” makeover. Instead of dodgy color-changing stones, he created the Happy Ring, which aims to alert users to their sanity using biometric sensors and artificial intelligence.

The Happy Ring, which just received $60 million in funding, includes a personalized electrodermal activity sensor (EDA) that monitors changing stress levels in real time. Essentially, the device works by sensing when your sympathetic nervous system – the thing that regulates your fight or flight response – starts to activate.

“When we start having difficult thoughts or feeling strong emotions, our brain reacts to help us respond to those stimuli,” says Dustin Freckleton, MD and CEO of Happy Health. “EDA sensors measure the electrical changes that occur on the hand in response to small amounts of sweat that begin to be produced on the palm of the hand.” Freckleton went on to explain that Happy Ring’s EDA sensor then looks for sweat gland openings or sweat production, which is then fed into an algorithm that identifies your emotional state. The ring then continually adjusts the AI ​​model to data from an individual person, instead of comparing that person’s data to a predetermined set of users.

“We regularly update you on your mood so you know when you’re calm, alert, or tense,” says Sean Rad, founder of Happy Health and Tinder. “And we take all that data and customize exercises for you that are scientifically proven to help you manage your stress and improve your mood and overall well-being.” Rad also added that from a security and standards perspective, the device is HIPAA compliant, but did not go into detail regarding Happy Health’s privacy policy and how the data are stored.

An overview of the Happy Ring app.
Image: Good Health

These exercises include activities such as breathwork, meditation, and journaling based on cognitive-behavioral therapy. The exercises can all be completed within the app and are simultaneously tracked by the ring itself as you complete them.

Other wearables like the Fitbit Sense, Sense 2 and even Manchester City’s future smart scarf also feature EDA sensors as a means of tracking stress or emotions. According to Freckleton, the advantage of a ring is that it is better suited than wrist- or torso-based trackers for measuring stress because it is located on the hand itself. (The Fitbit Sense, for example, requires you to place your hand over the screen to get a reading.)

The device’s sensors also include four skin electrodes, four light wavelengths, accelerometers, and two temperature sensors. It also tracks sleep and overall activity and has an estimated battery life of up to three days.

On the surface, many of these elements look familiar to features you’ll find in an Oura Ring or Whoop 4.0, minus the custom EDA sensor. However, Rad says the Happy Ring is much more focused on the mental state of the user, whereas other wearables on the market track metrics like heart rate and heart rate variation as an indicator of health. how your body has recovered from physical stress.

The Happy Ring on its charger

The Happy Ring uses a bespoke EDA sensor.
Image: Good Health

“They [Oura, Whoop] don’t have mental health metrics,” says Rad. “We don’t necessarily give you metrics that are about waking up and helping you perform physically. They talk about tension and recovery. We’re talking about uniquely measuring aspects of your brain health. »

Freckleton also claims Happy Ring’s custom algorithm is more accurate than what’s currently on the market, especially since the company built its EDA sensor from the ground up with “medical grade” accuracy. He pointed to a study in the journal Sleep comparing the accuracy of the device to several other wearables like Actiwatch 2, Fitbit Charge 4, Whoop 3.0 and second generation Oura Ring. Granted, the study only observed a sample of 36 participants over 77 nights, but peer-reviewed studies of any kind are rare when it comes to health and wellness gadgets.

That’s exactly what the Happy Ring is – a feel-good gadget. It is not at all intended to diagnose any mental condition. According to Rad, the device is “designed to clinical standards, but not a clinical device.”

As for when the device will be available, Happy Health has a waiting list and the device will ship on a first-come, first-served basis. But one thing that users might not like too much is that, like Whoop and Oura Ring, it uses a subscription model. Although you don’t pay for the hardware upfront, it comes on a monthly, yearly, or 24-month subscription level. The monthly tier costs $30, $24 per month if you pay annually, and $20 per month if you choose the 24-month plan.

Overall, Happy Ring sounds like a good idea, and its concept is an extension of the direction wearables are headed. While wearables were initially glorified pedometers, in recent years there has been a shift towards stress management, sleep tracking, and mindfulness. This accelerated once the pandemic hit. The big question is whether a newcomer like the Happy Ring can play ball with what already exists.

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