Friday, April 8, 2011

A step back: is a wearable wakefulness system a good idea?

So I'm kicking around this idea for some kind of system that combines subjective sleepiness ratings, PVT, and some sort of biophysical signal to tell you how sleepy you are. Ideally, this should enable easy sleep research.

Is this worth it? Would you or anyone else use it? Would it actually enable sleep research, or would it just become another cool toy?

Personal sensing devices are apparently popular enough to sustain several companies today. In the sleep sensing space, there's at least Zeo and Wakemate. But that's just while you're asleep; Fitbit and Bodymedia/Bodybugg (a couple papers here and here) work while you're awake. Fitbit and Bodymedia are working on weight loss (how much activity you do) and how much you sleep. Bodymedia is interesting, because it has all these interesting sensors (GSR and heat flux) but they use them just to tell how active you are.

A couple other really neat papers are pushing the "wearable sense a bunch of stuff" system even farther:
1. the Optimi Project is using a multi-sensor system to detect mental health. ECG, EEG, Activity Sensing, Speech Analysis (?) and Sub-dermal cortisol (?!) combine to sense depression. It's been tested in the lab, and will be tested in the real world sometime this year. Paper reference (Majoe et al 2010).
2. the QUASAR system shows evidence for three things: first, that people are interested in personal sensors; second, that such things are feasible; and third, that every project everywhere is named "Quasar". ECG, EOG, EMG, etc. Matthews et al have described this as far back as 2007. I guess this is more of a "here are tools we can use" reference, but still a good reference to have.

(EDIT: incidentally, this Q-sensor is also interesting as another GSR tracker, and this just popped up in Forbes. I find myself feeling strongly about the whole Quantified Self movement, mostly positively, except for a few bits of nerdy rage because some people are "doing it wrong". Mostly positively, though.)

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