Embrace medical-quality smartwatch predicts seizures

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The Embrace is designed to spot the warning signs of an epileptic seizure and be comfortably worn for long periods of time by adults and children (Photo: Empatica)

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The Embrace is the first medical-quality smartwatch that helps predict epileptic seizures, and measure stress, activity and sleep. Designed to improve the lives of people with epilepsy, the sleek-looking device can also be worn purely as a stylish watch.

According to the Institute of Medicine, one in 26 people in the US will suffer from epilepsy at some point in their life. Approximately 65 million people worldwide suffer from the brain disorder. The Embrace wearable works in conjunction with the wearer's smartphone to monitor physiological stress, sleep and physical activity and alerts people with epilepsy when an unusual event like a convulsive seizure happens.

One of the benefits of today’s smart technology is the ability to also alert other people when a loved one experiences a health issue, or forgets to take their medication as with the Memo pillbox. The Embrace can send an alert to nominated family members or friends via the system's Empatica Alert iOS/Android app, who can then bring help.

Family, friends or caregivers can also wear a "companion" Embrace. When the two Embraces are within range, the companion device will vibrate to alert them that another wearer may need assistance.

Embrace will also launch with the Empatica Mate app which can be used by anyone to track stress, sleep quality and physical activity. For example, you can set the Embrace to vibrate gently when your stress level starts rising, giving you the opportunity to take action before it gets too high, or when you reach activity targets during the day or during your workout.

If you push yourself too hard, the Embrace will gently remind you with a vibration that you need some time to recover. You can also track changes in your stress levels during different daily activities, like commuting by car versus bike, meeting with your boss or a friend, and taking exercise, giving you customized insights into your behavior.

Embrace measures movement and physiological signals to detect potentially life-threatening seizures via a range of sensors that gauge electrodermal activity (EDA) or skin conductance (arousal, excitement), movement or activity (accelerometers) and activity (temperature). The sensors and algorithms were originally developed at the MIT Media Lab where researchers discovered that combining stress data from the wrist with activity data led to the most accurate seizure detection.

EDA is activated by areas of the brain involved in emotions such as fear, anxiety, and excitement, and is strongly activated during the kinds of seizures that can shut down breathing. These emotions generate skin conductance which varies depending on the amount of sweat-induced moisture on the skin.

Although the algorithm has currently only been validated for convulsive seizure detection, research is being conducted into the detection of nonconvulsive seizures. Empatica notes that as biofeedback using skin conductance can cut seizure frequency almost in half for many people, the Embrace may be able to help those with complex partial or other nonconvulsive seizures. The sleep and stress pattern data collected by the Embrace may also help people with epilepsy work out whether changing these patterns reduces seizure frequency.

The Embrace is water resistant, uses Bluetooth Low Energy, and provides USB connectivity for charging. Simply snap it on and it tightens with a magnet for a perfect fit. It’s also aesthetically pleasing with an ultra thin design, Italian leather band available in a range of colors, and a polished metal case.

Embrace has been developed by affective computing company Empatica in partnership with the Epilepsy Foundation and private donors. Empatica has strong credentials in developing medical-quality wearable devices for hospitals and universities around the world. Its work has been published in journals such as Epilepsia, Neurology and Nature and the company is in the process of applying both for CE Medical (Europe) and FDA clearance (USA) for the Embrace.

A "Get one Give One" offer is available via the crowdfunding site Indiegogo until December 24. When you pledge for an Embrace (US$189) another Embrace device will be donated to a child with epilepsy by the Epilepsy Foundation. What a great way to celebrate the season of giving!

If all goes to plan, delivery to backers is estimated to start in May 2015. Have a look at the introductory video below.

Source: Empatica via Wired

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