Microsoft’s Stress Sensing Bra: A Cautionary Tale

December 17, 2013

11:00 am

Originally this was going to be a story about a crazy, potentially controversial product in the works by Microsoft Research–a bra with built-in sensors that would alert women to when they were emotionally eating. However, upon further research, the focus of this piece has shifted.

When I first heard about the product, I’ll admit I was intrigued. So you’re saying I can wear this bra and it will tell me (hopefully discreetly enough) that just because I had a stressful day at work, I really shouldn’t eat all those fries? Let’s face it, I’m basically the target market for such a product, and was somewhat interested in the purpose and potential of a bra that could actually alert me and make me more aware of when I was eating and for what reasons.

Alas, I will not be purchasing this bra any time soon, because no such product is actually coming to market. According to the Discovery News article, this is how it was supposed to work:

“The sensors captured heart rate and respiration with an EKG sensor, skin conductance with an electrodermal activity sensor, and movement with an accelerometer and gyroscope. The data was streamed to a smarphone app, as well as stored in the researchers’ computer. By both recording their own moods on a smartphone app and collecting data from the bra-sensors, the scientists could accurately predict changes in physiology that accompanies eating and stress, including whether the subjects were happy or angry.”

With the trendiness of wearable tech, I really didn’t think twice about the authenticity of the article (and we all know you can’t put something on the Internet that isn’t true). It wasn’t until I did some further research that I discovered this story had gone viral with little verification into its reality.

As it turns out, Microsoft is not currently developing a bra to stop us from overeating (cue the “womp womp”). According to a Microsoft spokesperson:

“The bra sensing system is just one instance of a class of work from a group of Microsoft researchers who are focused on the broader topic of affective computing, or designing devices and services that are sensitive to people’s moods and react accordingly. While we will continue our research in affective computing, Microsoft has no plans to develop a bra with sensors.”

This is just another example of media outlets catching part of a story, that story going viral, and then someone does actual research and alerts us to pump the breaks…usually after there’s been a sufficient uproar over whatever it is. Sometimes it’s a legitimate hoax, sometimes it’s a simple misunderstanding, and sometimes it’s even considered performance art. However it ends up, it’s fun while it lasts, and occasionally the truth even ends up being more interesting than the original story.

Who knows, maybe this will inspire someone to create such a bra (I’ll keep my eyes peeled on Kickstarter). But for now I’ll stick with my trusty Fitbit to keep the fries out of my face.


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Kristin is an aspiring entrepreneur who is enthusiastically navigating her way through the DC startup space. She has an unending passion for learning and is never satisfied with the status quo. During the day she is an ops, biz dev, and marketing maven for Fission Strategy

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