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Smart Pen Detects, Helps to Reduce Stress

By Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on December 24, 2010

Move over smart phones, a new device — a pen — is said to measure if an individual is stressed-out and provide individual biofeedback for assisting self-regulation.

Researcher and designer Miguel Bruns Alonso has developed a pen which can measure the stress levels of the person using it, and can actually help to reduce that stress.

In experiments, the heart rate of people who used the anti-stress pen fell by an average of five percent.

There are already devices which can detect what the user is doing and feeling, and use this information in a smart way.

This has now become a primary goal for product developers, and one which has already been achieved in automobiles, to some extent. For example, some cars can detect aggressive driving and intervene to counteract it.

Following this model, Alonso decided to develop an anti-stress pen to demonstrate the potential of this relatively new concept in product design.

Bruns’ experiments showed that people tend to play with pens in their hands when they are tense. It also seems that when they are encouraged to check these nervous movements, or make more gentle movements, they can gain more control over a situation.

“Sensors in a pen could provide an unobtrusive way of measuring stress levels. Giving users the right feedback could then help them deal with their stress in a constructive way,” says Bruns.

“That is why I have developed a pen which can detect ‘nervous’ movements and determine whether the user is stressed. The pen also provides a counterweight to these movements using built-in electronics and electromagnets.

“When it detects the quicker movements associated with stress, the pen gradually becomes more difficult to move around. This encourages users to move in a more relaxed way, which in turn makes the pen yield more easily again.”

When the pen was evaluated in an experiment, people who received feedback on their behavior had a lower heart rate (around 5 percent lower) than those who received no feedback.

By these measures, then, they experienced less psychological stress — even though they were unware they were receiving any feedback on their behavior. They also said that they did not feel any less stress.

According to Bruns, this means products that seek to reduce short-term stress should, preferably, intervene directly to modify that behavior to prevent a potential build-up of stress, rather than warning the user “after the fact” about their stress levels.

“This could allow products to reduce stress in an unobtrusive way,” he said.

Source: Delft University of Technology

 

APA Reference
Nauert, R. (2010). Smart Pen Detects, Helps to Reduce Stress. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2010/12/24/smart-pen-detects-helps-to-reduce-stress/22137.html