Researchers develop anti-stress pen to measure and reduce stress

In the future, more and more products will be able to interpret what users are feeling and use that information in a smart way. To illustrate the power of this theory, researcher Miguel Bruns Alonso has developed a pen which can measure the stress levels of the person using it, and can actually help to reduce that stress.

In experiments, the heart rate of people who used the anti-stress pen fell by an average of five per cent.

On Thursday 23 December, Miguel Bruns Alonso will receive his PhD degree from TU Delft based on his research into this subject.

Aggressive driving
There are already devices which can detect what the user is doing and feeling, and use this information in a smart way. This has now become a primary goal for product developers, and one which has already been achieved in automobiles, to some extent. For example, some cars can detect aggressive driving and intervene to counteract it. Delft PhD student Miguel Bruns Alonso decided to develop an anti-stress pen to demonstrate the potential of this relatively new concept in product design.

Bruns, who studies industrial design, carried out various experiments during the course of his research, which showed that people tend to play with their pens in their hands when they are tense. It also seems that when they are encouraged to check these nervous movements, or make more gentle movements, it is possible to gain more control over a situation. 'Sensors in a pen could provide an unobtrusive way of measuring stress levels. Giving users the right feedback could then help them deal with their stress in a constructive way,' says Bruns.

Heart rate
'That is why I have developed a pen which can detect 'nervous' movements and determine whether the user is stressed. The pen also provides a counterweight to these movements using built-in electronics and electromagnets. When it detects the quicker movements associated with stress, the pen gradually becomes more difficult to move around. This encourages users to move in a more relaxed way, which in turn makes the pen yield more easily again.