We spoke with Niina Venho, the CEO of Moodmetric, a smart ring that hopes to help users learn how to manage these overload stressors. She explains that the key to a more peaceful life is to track emotional levels, learn to calm the mind, and keep tabs of our emotional past.
Courtney Dickson: Tell us the Moodmetric founding story. Why did you choose to focus on measuring emotions?
Niina Venho: People know a lot about their physics nowadays. We know our weight, pulse, heart rate variability, sleep patterns, oxygen saturation - and are very pleased to have all this information.
There are plenty of wearables that collect data about our physical performance, at Moodmetric we did not want to develop just another activity meter. Measuring our mind and emotions should be at least as important as measuring our physics, still there are not many devices to give us any of that information. We wanted to work on something that benefits anyone wanting to develop their mental capacities.
Our inventor, Henry Rimminen, has a long background in biosensor technology research. He was familiar with the skin conductance measurement used in psychological research, which tells about emotional levels of the wearer and is a perfect indicator of the emotional load. The equipment currently used for these measurements are clumsy and filled with wires. Henry´s idea was to combine it into a ring - what a perfect form factor for emotions!
We wanted to make a scientific sensor that was small, attractive, and looks more like a jewel. The opportunities in the emotion measurement are huge. There are application possibilities in many industries, for example in digital and mobile health, user experience analysis, content marketing, psychological and cognitive research, and workplace wellbeing.
Keeping Your Cool
CD: What are the benefits of learning to calm your mind?
NV: Losing your temper is never the best course of action.
Uncontrolled behavior in the workplace is no longer tolerated. Abusive supervision or mean bosses cost close to $25 billion annually for corporations in the United States. Companies are looking for people that are emotionally balanced. Emotionally intelligent people build better relationships, have better communication skills, and they manage conflict more productively.
It is our responsibility to take care of our own emotional balance. It's not just about your personal benefit; your mood also affects others. Stress, self-awareness and emotional balance are closely connected. Understanding yourself is a tool that can be used to manage stress as well as any other emotion. The stress costs are six times higher. Absenteeism, diminished productivity, and on-the-job-accidents cost $300 billion annually.
Whatever you do in life, emotional intelligence is something that is important to build. Knowing how to get calm and stay calm when needed is a great place to start.
CD: Who is your target market?
NV: Everyone looking to be better connected with their minds and wanting to build their self-awareness. For the most part, our current customers are research for us. We're using the opportunity to do skin conductance measurement in such a small and wearable form. We want to address the consumer market as well and believe everyone can benefit from a scientific emotion level tracking tool in nice little package.
Moodmetric is currently following a number of important trends, including biohacking/quantified self, corporate wellbeing programs taking mental health into consideration, mindfulness and meditation, as well as design wearables and smart jewellery.
CD: Who are your notable competitors, and what sets you apart?
NV: There are other biofeedback devices said to train mental fitness and help cope with stress, many of them are based on heart rate variability measurements. Heart-rate variability is a good indicator of stress levels, but it is reliant on measuring heart rate, which is most accurately measured from the chest area. The signal then needs to be analyzed and filtered to understand how a person is reacting, while the skin conductance measurement directly tells the emotional activation level.
EEG measurement devices do help to calm the mind and they have great possibilities in brain and cognitive research. However, they require a headband with several contact points, and are unlikely to become popular for continuous daily use in the near future.
What sets us apart from the laboratory devices is that the Moodmetric ring measures skin conductance from where it is best to measure, from the palm side of the hand or finger, and can be used anywhere. Our reading is very accurate and it is live, continuously updated data can be seen on the smartphone app.
Looking To The Future
CD: What do you see for the future of wearables, and what role does Moodmetric hope to play in that future?
NV: New devices are entering the market combining more measurements, and having more features. I feel that people are now testing many devices trying to figure out what works best for them. "Do I manage with one wearable or do I need several?" The novelty seekers are trying them all out.
Moodmetric aims to be the number one in measuring emotions and providing both the consumers and researchers a simple yet accurate tool for it. We are very open about others using the Moodmetric technology, we offer our development kit free and would like to build a whole ecosystem around skin conductance measurement. We hope to partner with other companies and innovators to build services around: mood monitoring, individual and workplace wellbeing, programs targeting to calm the mind, cognitive research, and much more.
CD: How do you think wearables will change how we act and interact with those around us?
NV: My colleague does her 10,000 steps per day and I feel the need to manage the same, or, my husband tracks his sleep to perform better throughout the day, so maybe I should as well. Wearables have the potential to improve communication. For example, the Moodmetric ring can alert the family if the mother has had a very stressful day, or it can tell that grandpa is taking his daytime nap. The possibilities for improving interaction are simply endless. Wearable technology can ease our lives and make communication smoother in many ways. My personal wish is for us to still talk to each other!
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