2.2 million people in the U.S. suffer from epilepsy, according to the Epilepsy Foundation. For many people who are diagnosed with the disorder, the quality of their life is deeply impacted by unexpected seizures. That’s where the Embrace smartwatch comes in.
Created by the company Empatica, Embrace is a sleek unassuming smartwatch with Italian leather straps and a polished metal case, but it is capable of so much more than just counting how many calories someone has burned — it can also detect an epileptic seizure.
Embrace will also send an alert to a family member or friend’s smartphone when a seizure has been detected and prompt them to call for help. A caregiver can also wear a “companion” Embrace. The companion smartwatch will vibrate when the person wearing an Embrace is experiencing a seizure, although it only works when the companion watch and Embrace are within a certain range of each other, according to Gizmag.
“Embrace is designed to save lives for a lot of people with epilepsy,” MIT professor Rosalind Picard said in an Indiegogo video.
In 2007, Picard led a team at MIT Media Lab that created a wearable device that measured changes on the surface of the skin, which is essential in determining stress levels. Forbes reports that the early device was called iClam, which was designed to measure the “fight or flight response” or the body’s stress level.
“We found that our wristband data was highly correlated with how long the brain waves were suppressed after the seizure,” Picard wrote after conducting the study. “In other words, the bigger the signal on the wrist, the longer the brain waves went flat after the seizure had supposedly ended. This is not a good situation; it should be detected and the person should not be left alone if it happens.”
That technology was eventually adapted to detect seizures in the Embrace smartwatch.
As of April, Empatica has raised more than $660,000 on Indiegogo. They also partnered with the Epilepsy Foundation to run a one-for-one donation drive through their crowdfunding campaign, where for every Embrace purchased, one will be donated to an underprivileged child with epilepsy. Embrace will be delivered to Indiegogo campaign backers in May.
Top photo courtesy of Empatica