Stress tracking technology: Can wiring up calm us down?

A hand rigged up with sensors for heart rate, microsweat and peripheral temperature, which Hiroko Demichelis uses with clients to help them learn how they respond to stress. (David Horemans/CBC)

Real-time data help us understand our response to stress but experts warn of unfounded claims in consumer tech
By Lisa Johnson, CBC News Posted: May 17, 2017 6:00 AM PT

Sitting in front of a computer screen is not normally considered a stress busting tactic.

But clinical counselor Hiroko Demichelis uses real-time data — from an array of sensors strapped to her clients — to help them learn relaxation techniques.

“I think we are all in a great need to explore the science of calming down,” she said.

“We all know about the accelerator in the Ferrari, but somehow we have forgotten, lost track of the brake.”

Among her clinical tools for biofeedback is an interesting metric called heart rate variability — a sort of proxy measure for stress that’s been used in studies to help pregnant women and army recruits.

It’s also frequently popping up in consumer-level stress tracking devices, though experts warn the accuracy and usefulness of those technologies may be works in progress.

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