Stress Awareness Glove

Exploration on stress levels and work practices

Spring 2018 // Applied Principles: Physical Computing

Advised by Professor Josephine Leong
Project space
Stress awareness is a topic that is frequently discussed but challenging to put into implementation. While in a state of heavy focus, people often tend to lose track of mindful work practices and can forget to take breaks. The impacts of prolonged stress accumulation extend farther than just work and productivity; mental health and emotional well-being can also be affected.
Project description
This glove was a rough prototype for a wearable concept that explored the topic of stress mindfulness during work. The sensors on the glove detect the user’s galvanic skin response (GSR) levels to detect a low, medium, or high stress level predictions and emit a green, orange, or red light respectively. My goal for this project was to explore the relationship between indicating biometric levels of stress and gentle reminders during a focused state of work for college students.
In conversations with my peers as well in my own past experiences, I’ve noticed that one of the most crucial elements of an effective work and productivity tool is a certain level of non-obtrusiveness. Within the realm of wearable products, a similar trend seems to remain true; the goal of the wearable is not to constantly distract, but to surface its functionality to its user whenever the circumstance is right. Both a successful productivity tool and a wearable should be visually simple to parse and serve as an aid to a task, rather than adding too much to the overall experience.
Inspiration: Mindful reminders in tech
To begin my process, I started prototyping with plain connector wires attached to small pieces of aluminum foil. As scrappy and low-fidelity this method was, I feel as though I learned a lot about how to structure my program moving forward.
For a proof of concept, I created a rough prototype using a GSR sensor interfacing with an Arduino attached to a glove with three small LEDs. Once the GSR reading surpassed a certain threshold that indicated moderate levels of stress, an orange LED would light up on the glove. When the reading returned as a high level of stress, the red LED would light up. The LEDs were small enough to be unobtrusive enough when focusing on work, but the change in the orange and red lights was noticeable from a peripheral view.
I asked eight test participants to try on the glove for a period of hour while they were working. Some of their anonymized insights are shared below:
“I feel like if the glove wasn’t as bulky, the light turning to red would make me want to stand up and breathe.” [Female, 22]
“I think this is interesting compared to my Fitbit [Blaze]’s stand up reminder, since it can take into account my own body and metrics instead of a time-based notification. Like what if I hadn’t stood up in two hours, but I felt completely fine, compared to if I was working for 15 minutes but felt like I was going to have an anxiety attack?” [Female, 21]
“Honestly, I think this idea might do well for things outside of work and productivity. Like, let’s say you’re arguing with your girlfriend and you get really worked up and see that your stress level is too high. Maybe that’ll help you internally understand how upset you are, and you can try to cool down.” [Male, 20]
While this overall project was fairly scrappy, I would be interested in continuing exploration of the relationship between stress reminders and personalized work schedules.