Microsoft Smart Bra image from the Microsoft research paper, "Food and Mood: Just-in-Time Support for Emotional Eating" http://www.cs.rochester.edu/hci/pubs/pdfs/FoodMood.pdf
Microsoft's latest offering has me cringing.
As if women aren't assaulted enough throughout the day with sexualy objectifying media images "representing" them (statistics show over 3000 times daily in advertisements ALONE), distorting our perceptions of realistic body images and leaving us with the distinct feeling that we are in some way inadequate, Microsoft has found a way to capitalize on our insecurities giving us with a false sense of control over our bodies.
Microsoft's (media dubbed) Smart Bra monitors heart rate and respiration using EKG sensors pads with a microprocessor powered by a 3.7-volt battery that can be tucked into a woman's own bra. It was able to sample up to eight bio-signal channels simultaneously, according to cognitive psychologist and senior researcher in visualization and interaction at Microsoft, Mary Czerwinski, in her research paper, "Food and Mood: Just-in-Time Support for Emotional Eating." The concept for this device is from altruistic; rather utilizing the device for its medical potential (think heart attack and seizure prevention), the purpose of this prototype is to prevent women from overeating in times of stress. When the sensors detect high stress levels, the device sends an alert to your phone using the companion EmoTree app, notifying you immediately that you are at higher risk of emotional eating, calling it a form of cognitive behavioral therapy.
EmoTree app image from the Microsoft research paper, "Food and Mood: Just-in-Time Support for Emotional Eating" http://www.cs.rochester.edu/hci/pubs/pdfs/FoodMood.pdf
The real issue at stake here is that as a culture, we have been so bombarded by imagery idealizing the reed-like, dangerously thin female form that its affected our collective psyche of body image. We're unable to assign authentic value to our bodies when we find ourselves (not surprisingly) unable to torture our bodies into media-inspired waifishness, which, incidentally, has successfully removed all signs of a woman's sexuality and reproductive nature while somehow maintaining the illusion of sexual appeal. We compensate for our inability to dance the fine line of genderless sexuality by our self-loathing and finding disgust in our perceived powerlessness to attract sexual attention and garner power for ourselves. This is precisely where we've given the media our power as women; we've allowed it to limit us and bought into its objectification. We feel less entitled to our sexual desires, or need to have committed, loving relationships, and to be acknowledged in our intelligence.
According to Microsoft's latest update on the Smart Bra, despite extensive testing and recent human trials of a prototype, They have no current plans to make the bra into a commercial product. Problems with sensors needing to be recharged every three to four hours limit the bra's usefulness. As well, resources invested in this product could only be marketed to half the population, significantly cutting into Microsoft's return. "We tried to do the same thing for men's underwear but it was too far away (from the heart)," explained Czerwinski.
Said Rachel Happe of Boston in a Tweet, "If nothing else convinces you we need more women in tech, this should. No, I don't want someone hacking my bra..."