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Emotion Sensing Pitch Off Showcases Novel Uses, Announces Winners

The Partners HealthCare Connected Health Emotion Sensing Pitch Off took place last night, concluding three months of competition and opening two days of presentations, panels and keynotes at the annual symposium.

The even kicked off with a keynote presentation by Vice President of Connected Health Joe Kvedar, MD who stressed that “emotion sensing is critical for activating true automation of care.”

“There’s so much more than just measuring vital signs…and we’re at the very beginning of that journey,” he said.

Each of the five finalists–chosen in an online competition on Medstro, the social network for physicians–then presented their idea for incorporating emotion sensing technology to a panel of judges.

  • Lara Ronan, MD‘s YourDecision app would steer patients with deadly and often complicated diagnoses to better understand their situation through organized and explained medical data, offering resources for support and by prompting users to explore their emotional reaction to the situation.
  • Vishal Punwani, a senior medical student and teaching fellow at Khan Academy, presented ForceCalm, a smartphone app that addresses and assesses the emotional state of children on the autism spectrum. The app first learns a child’s preferences then displays a series of calming images–like puppies or favorite cartoon characters–and monitors a child’s emotional state through variables including depth of press, heart rate, facial expression and vocal response in an effort to systematically calm and soothe.
  • Rose Laurie Schloff planned to better address and treat fear of public speaking–which affects 50 percent of the population–with a wearable device that tracks breathing, reminding wearers with a gentle buzz when their respiration exhibits signs of nervousness or agitation. By mindfully practicing better breathing–the only willfully controlled body function impacted by fear–users can ease themselves and control their speaking anxiety.
  • ValeraHealth, presented by David Mou, MD, MBA, hopes to bring a collaborative care approach to treating mental illness. The app would connect with insurance providers to identify high risk individuals and outfit them with emotion sensing technology. It would then use markers like distance traveled from home, the amount of text messages sent and number of steps along with self reported surveys to track a patient’s emotional state. ValeraHealth hopes to connect users with case managers who’d reach out to patients if their statistics indicate reason for concern and eventually support telepsychiatry.
  • Roland Carlstedt, PhD, ABSP hoped to use emotion sensing technology to bridge the gap between patient self-report and reality in psychotherapy by tracking incidents of a panic attack, for example, and later using that information as a tool for better symptom management.

The three winners, Punwani, Schloff and Mou, each received free use of Emo technologies from Emotional Sciences, two free Embrace wristbands and two Muse brains sensing headbands. Additionally, The American Resident Project, an event sponsor along with Partners HealthCare, chose Schloff to receive their own award and be profiled in a professional video.

An online vote for the audience’s favorite pitch will conclude in two weeks.

Paula Sokolska

Paula Sokolska

    Paula is a freelance science writer and strategic communications associate at Health Leads. Formerly a managing editor at MedTech Boston, she has a B.S. in Journalism from Boston University and has worked with the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, Boston Globe, Social Documentary Network, BU Today and several nonprofit organizations. She can be reached at paula.sokolska@gmail.com.

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