Image source: Empatica

Seizure and stress detecting Embrace wearable starts shipping

Cambridge startup Empatica’s seizure and stress detecting Embrace wearable has started shipping to its earliest backers.  The device, which looks like a fitness tracker, features some original sensors which set it apart from the crowd. This includes accelerometors, gyroscope, temperature monitor and electrodermal activity sensor (sweat induced moisture sensor).

seizure and stress detecting embrace wearable starts shipping - Seizure and stress detecting Embrace wearable starts shipping
Image source: Empatica

Empatica’s core technology traces to MIT Medial Lab research. Back in 2007, Prof. Picard’s team developed a wearable that measured changes on the surface of the skin communicating the main component of stress. Rather unexpectedly, the team subsequently learned they had built a more accurate method for seizure detection.

The Indiegogo campaign raised $782,000 and closed in January 2015. The tracker was marketed to both epilepsy sufferers and people who want to keep an eye on their general stress levels. Shipping was originally scheduled for December last year, which means the project missed that deadline by only a few months.

Embrace provides activity monitoring, sleep monitoring, stress management and seizure monitoring. The combination of sensors allows the tracker to detect spikes in any activity, showing when a user is anxious, depressed, stressed or about to have an epileptic seizure. The device has a smart, minimalist design made from polished metal and Italian leather.

When people that have epilepsy wear Embrace, they will get an alert when an unusual event happens, like a convulsive seizure. It will go via their smartphone to parents, roommates or caregivers, so somebody can check on them. It is a little known fact that one of every 26 people in the US suffers from this at some point in their lifetime. Approximately 65 million people suffer from epilepsy worldwide.

“If somebody goes to check on a person during or after they have had a grand mal seizure, then they are less likely to die,” Picard says.

“In some cases, simply saying the person’s name or turning them over (gentle stimulation) might save their life. Anybody could do this potentially life-saving action, they just need to know to go check on the person — don’t leave them alone right after a seizure.”

Embrace measures Electrodermal activity, or EDA, what is autonomic data that is activated by regions deep in the brain involved in emotions such as fear, anxiety, and positive excitement. It is strongly activated during the kinds of seizures that involve a region of the brain that has been shown to shut down breathing.

seizure and stress detecting embrace wearable starts shipping - Seizure and stress detecting Embrace wearable starts shipping
Image source: Empatica

Apart from detecting seizures, anyone can also use the wristbands to monitor stress levels, which is important for good health. Sympathetic activation increases when you experience excitement or stress whether physical, emotional, or cognitive. It increases also with stressors – whether physical, emotional, or cognitive. The skin is the only organ that is purely innervated by the sympathetic nervous system. The wearable measures increases in sympathetic activation by monitoring subtle electrical changes across the surface of the skin.

If you push yourself too much, the Embrace will gently remind you with a vibration, that you need some time to recover. For example, you can set it to vibrate gently when your body’s stress level is climbing, before it gets too high. And, you can use the Empatica Mate app to see how your body’s stress levels change during your daily activities.

“Stress signals reach every organ of your body, so these stress signals are potentially influencing everything,” Picard, told MIT News. “Sometimes you don’t realize [you’re stressed] until you get that just-in-time notice.”

Embrace can also be used for general activity monitoring, and to keep track of your sleep versus wake patterns. It does not, however, provide detailed sleep staging information.

The wearable does not include a traditional heart rate sensor, but it might be possible in the future. According to the company’s website, research shows that heart rate can be detected with the sensor set that Embrace has. Researchers worldwide are using a much more expensive, scientific version of the wristband, called the E4, which does track heart rate and heart rate variability, to study epilepsy and other neurological and psychiatric conditions.

You can order the device from the company’s website for around $200. If you order today, you can expect to receive it sometime in July.

6 thoughts on “Seizure and stress detecting Embrace wearable starts shipping

  • I ordered this watch and waited 9 months for it to show up. Not only was the band broken, but it looks nothing like the watch advertised on the website or in the pictures. The band is a cheap piece of elastic, not the wide band shown in the ad and the size is half of what it shows on the website. It is quite flimsy. Also, there is no customer service number to call, and only vague emails. This is false advertising.

    • Thanks for your comment Nancy on your experience with Embrace. Sorry to hear about all the issues. We have not tested the product yet, so the information in this article is purely conveying the information as presented on the Empatica website. It would be good to hear from others on their experience with Embrace. On paper, it looked like an interesting device.

    • Nancy, thank you for your comments. I was considering ordering this device for my nephew’s son who has been having chronic seizures. However, after reading your experience, I think the Embrace company needs to reassess their device and website to conform to the product advertised. Also, without a customer service number to call, there is no way to deal with any issues that arise.

  • Same as Nancy. I orderd and paid my Embrace 10 months ago and finally got one. There was no communication towards customers to notify when we would be receiving it. After I received it, the first feeling is an impression of a very cheap product. Small plastic with a cheap band…I even start to doubt about the fact that it does what it is supposed to do. 200 € for a piece of plastic, there is no screen at all. When you are supposed to interact with the whatch by tapping on it, it eventually will display the time with two leds (hours,minutes), yes two leds !!! The battery life of the watch is too short not event a full day of operation. When I install the Alert app on my Samsung Galaxy Prime with a full battery, it will kill the battery in less than 4 hours. Usually it last 2 days. If you leave your phone on a table and start moving, after 5 meters it start to alert a disconnect….Using the phone with a Bose speaker works even after 10 meters. I am very deceived. I bought it for my son, and I wanted to test it before and it is just failing. Good idea bad design and bad execution.

  • I would like to know if the product has improved since 2016? Are there any more recent users of the product that can comment?

    • I have purchased it very recently. The connectivity issue still persists & also the battery drains fast. For a device with no active display i expected the battery to last at the least a day or 2. I understand that the sensors might use a lot of power but they could have improved the battery since 2016. There is no point in having the device if you have to charge it so frequently. I feel if the sole purpose of the device is to detect an unpredictable seizure activity it should be on the person at all times which is not possible with the device.

      Unless, they resolve the issues & do a lot of beta testing i personally do not feel this is the device you should be relying on.


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