This week, Microsoft researchers disclosed that they had developed a prototype bra to sense when women were overstressed, and thus susceptible to binge eating.
"It's mostly women who are emotional overeaters, and it turns out that a bra is perfect for measuring EKG (electrocardiogram)," said Mary Czerwinski, a cognitive psychologist and senior researcher in visualization and interaction at Microsoft, told Discovery News. "We tried to do the same thing for men's underwear but it was too far away (from the heart)."
By notifying an overstressed woman, the research goes, the lady in question could be advised to slow down, relax, and not reach for the chocolate.
Microsoft, to its credit, has been fairly open about its own research projects, disclosing everything from real-time translation services to computer-generated, virtual-touch smartphones, to interactive displays on everyday objects. Now, it's time to go inside the virtual vault of Microsoft's R&D facility and wonder what else it could be working on:
1.) Sensor-equipped helmets
We all know that Washington state has miles of bike trails, and that Microsoft's campus is one of the largest in the technology space. That means that a decent chunk of Microsoft's own employees are cycling from one point to another at any given time. Why not put moisture, temperature, and heartbeat sensors in the brim of the helmet? Or a gyroscope, Bluetooth radio, and GPS to detect and report a possible accident? Obviously this wouldn't just apply to Microsoft employees -- or even just bike helmets. That kind of information could come in handy during an SEC football game in the steamy South, for example.
2.) The "smart toothpick" The-Gadgeteer.com
No one wants a breakfast meeting with the guy who prefers onion bagels and coffee as his first meal of the day. And maybe the poor joe doesn't realize it, either. Imagine a "smart tothpick with a sulfur sensor, set to chime if the user needs a quick brushup. Bonus: discreetly letting his colleagues know he's having a bad mouth day.
3.) The "smart bed"
Why settle for a fitness tracker that guesses whether you're asleep or not?
There's no reason why Microsoft couldn't dream up (ahem) a smart bed that measures how much you toss and turn, as well as the temperature differential between the sheets and in the room. (Bonus: estimates for how many calories you burn when you're, um, "jumping on the bed".)
4.) Smart ski hats
In the winter time, the greatest risk to hyperthermia is the loss of body heat. The problem: how do we go about preventing that? Fortunately, we can solve that problem. Imagine a sensor equipped Santa hat to measure the heat that a skier is giving off. Need a heat boost? Run a Pentium III inside of it. (Kidding.)
5.) Smart boxers
OK, let's be mature here for a moment. While a pair of intelligent underwear may not be used for measuring stress, there are plenty of other measurements to be made down there. (No. Not that.) Guys want to keep things cool if they're interested in maximizing their fertility, for example. Right? Right? Oh, OK, OK. There's just no way a guy wants a sensor... package... down there.
6.) An MP3 player
At least with Microsoft, these are just research projects. Who knows what Google has in its secret labs?