We use cookies to give you the best personal experience on our website. If you continue to use our site without changing your cookie settings, you agree we may place these cookies on your device. You can change your cookie settings at any time but if you do , you may lose some functionality on our website . More information can be found in our privacy policy.
Please provide more information.
Stylus no longer supports Internet Explorer 7, 8 or 9. Please upgrade to IE 11, Chrome, Safari, Firefox or Edge. This will ensure you have the best possible experience on the site.
Brief Published: 7 Jul 2014

BodyBeat: Wearable Tracks Wellbeing

The next generation of health wearables

Researchers at Cornell University in the US have developed a wearable life-tracker that listens to non-speech sounds for clues about the user's health and mood.

The BodyBeat prototype constantly listens for sounds such as coughing, laughing and chewing via a microphone worn behind the ear. Unlike conventional life-trackers, it can plot behavioural information such as the precise time that people are eating.

The research is a step towards devices that understand their users and respond proactively to their environments, by assessing the user's mood, responding to voice commands or recording conversations.

The device could one day work with smartphones and wearables such as Google Glass to offer population-level health and wellbeing insights – assessing levels of breathing difficulties in smoggy conditions or mood levels during an economic upturn.

The research feeds into the trend of adding new metrics to wearables to aid full-spectrum life tracking, including data from beyond the body. Sony's SmartBand tracks steps and calories, but also social activities, locations and the weather outside.

It also chimes with the rise of 'ubiquitous listening' devices such as Motorola's Moto X smartphone, which combines the commands it picks up with calendar and location information to automatically control certain functions – for instance, when in meetings.

The next steps in quantified-self technologies will be adding even more body and environmental metrics – stress levels, films watched or online shopping cart contents.

For more on the quantified self, see our report on The Datasexual. Our Wearable Futures and Wired Health 2014 reports provide further insights into the future of wearable technologies.