Wearables are getting smarter. Once considered little more than glorified pedometers, the wearables coming out of 2015 are going to be considerably more powerful. So powerful, in fact, that they might save lives.
That’s what the Embrace aims to do. A wearable created by the computing company Empatica, the Embrace isn’t just an attractive looking smartwatch that can do all the usual fitness-tracker tricks. It’s designed to help epileptics track and manage their seizures without feeling stigmatized.
“With the Embrace, we didn’t want to design a medical device someone living with epilepsy would be ashamed of,” explains Mladen Barbaric, a designer at Pearl Studios, which helped make the Embrace a reality. According to Barbaric, the Embrace was the result of a question: can you make a device that everyone would want to wear, even if you literally have to?
In appearance, the Embrace is about as minimalist as you can get. A thin square of metal held on your wrist with an understated magnetically clasped band, the Embrace can be used as an understated watch, telling time according to the position of two small LEDs in the central ring. Like other wearables, it connects to a smartphone app, giving you metrics on your fitness, your sleep patterns, and more.
But where the Embrace differentiates itself from the competition is as an epilepsy tracker. According to statistics released in 2012 by the Institute of Medicine, one out of every 26 people in the United States will suffer an epileptic seizure in his or her lifetime. And seizures are dangerous: more people die from epileptic seizures every year than in a house fire. Yet even though there’s no shame to owning a smoke detector, many epileptics feel stigmatized by wearing epilepsy trackers.
“I became really obsessed with this question: Why do people who are sick have to have ugly devices, while the people who are healthy get beautiful devices that aren’t very useful?” Empatica founder Matteo Lai tells me. “Are people living with a chronic condition not worthy of the same design, quality and sophistication that we’re all used to? We wanted to have a device that could be sold at the Apple Store, but that was designed to save lives.”
To measure epilepsy, the Embrace uses clinical-grade sensors to detect a user’s electrodermal activity, or the way electrical signals spike through their skin. These signals can be used to determine a number of factors, like whether we are stressed or scared, but can also be used to detect unexpected events, like convulsive seizures. When the Embrace detects such a seizure, it automatically sends an alert to a friend, partner, or caretaker, along with the wearer’s location. The Embrace is the result of more than seven years of research and development from medical designers who originally came out of MIT.
The Embrace, which costs $189, recently concluded a successful Indiegogo campaign., but you can still preorder one. You can do so here.