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Wearable 'Q Sensor' Helps Monitor Stress Levels

Q Sensor
A new wristband from the MIT Media Lab-spawned company Affectiva can purportedly detect stress levels in the wearer, and give cues to their emotional state. The Q Sensor operates similarly to a polygraph by detecting electrical changes in the user's skin. When a person is excited, worried or upset, moisture begins to gather under the skin's surface, often as a prelude to sweating. The Q Sensor measures that buildup -- known as "skin conductance" -- and can provide the user with an indication of their anxiety level. Affectiva hopes that caregivers will be able to use the wristbands to detect the stress levels of, and defuse potential emotional meltdowns in autistic patients, especially children.

Autistic children often don't show when they're stressed until they erupt, sometimes violently, after a prolonged buildup. The Q Sensor can't pinpoint the exact level of stress, or differentiate excitement from depression; but it can give important warnings to teachers and other caregivers to sudden shifts in mood, allowing them to take appropriate preventative measures. To minimize the occurrence of false positives, the Q Sensor additionally monitors body temperature and motion. Researchers can also use the sensors to collect valuable data (that could otherwise only be obtained in a laboratory), and download it to a computer via USB. Trial versions of the device will be made available next month for $2,000 -- but we assume Affectiva will drop the price after the beta period if it hopes to get these devices in the hands of organizations that care for autistic children. Check out a video of the device after the break.

Tags: affectiva, autism, autistickids, health, kids, mit, MitMediaLab, QSensor, science, SkinConductance, stress, top