Do you feel sadder, fatter, or sleepier in fall and winter? You're not alone. As many as 10 million people in the United States alone suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). A new wearable technology, created by a Drexel University student, may make SAD a thing of the past.
The Light Therapy Glasses, which resemble a pair of cyberpunk goggles, constantly beam simulated sunlight into the periphery of your vision. It tricks your seasonally affected brain into thinking it’s the middle of summer—even in the dead of winter.
Because SAD gets triggered when daylight hours are abbreviated, the best way to treat the disorder is with light therapy, which exposes you to bright light via specially designed light boxes. So your body thinks it's getting more sunlight than it actually is, and if you use it regularly, it can be up to 80% effective in alleviating your SAD symptoms.
But light therapy has a "profound dropout rate," says Drexel University product design student Troy Hudson. Why? Because you have to fit a couple of hours of daily light into your busy life. Hudson wanted to find a way to humanize light therapy—to adapt to multiple lifestyles while making its prerequisites less onerous.
Hudson found his solution in wearable technology, and especially in products such as Google Glass. "The idea of projecting light that close to your eyes sounds completely insane, but artificial light needs to hit your retina to simulate the effects of sunlight," Hudson explains to Co.Design. "For that purpose, glasses are situated perfectly on the face."
Hudson's Light Therapy Glasses produce approximately 2,000 lux at the corners of your retina. Because they sit on your face, they provide a consistent angle, distance, and intensity of light, while also being extremely portable. Because the light is always in the periphery of your vision, Hudson says, the Light Therapy Glasses are less blinding than light boxes, which you must stare into for maximum effect. Hudson's Light Therapy Glasses can even track a user's progress over time, thanks to a connected Bluetooth app.
The Light Therapy Glasses are just a senior thesis project for now, but Hudson hopes that will change. "Today, there is wearable tech that tracks pretty much every major health problem," Hudson says. "Why not light?"
You can read about more of the senior projects from Drexel's inaugural product design class here.