The Smartphone That Knows When You’re Stressed

If you thought the world of technology was already a bit too creepy, then prepare to be creeped out some more. A new system called ‘StressSense’ is currently being developed. StressSense will enable a smartphone to read your tone of voice in order to assess just how stressed or relaxed you are. The program will simply ask a user to record themselves speaking calmly for three minutes, and then will be able to evaluate stress levels in later conversations by using the information about stress and voice tones already uploaded into the program.

That’s right: your phone will determine how stressed you are. You can opt for the phone to just listen to your voice while you’re making calls, or, if you like, you can have it monitor your voice at all times; that is, at any point while your phone is in the room with you it can be eavesdropping on all of your conversations, looking for worried notes or stressed syllables. The good news is that at least it’s non-invasive, so it won’t blare out an alarm as soon as you have an argument with your partner or tell you to ease up on the expletives.

The prototype for StressSense has already been tested on volunteers, who underwent a mock job interview – a setting which, as we all know, can be quite conducive to stress. Their voices were tested both indoors and outdoors, and the findings showed that the StressSense prototype was able to correctly identify stress in 81% of situations indoors and 76% of situations outdoors. These are pretty impressive figures for a mere trial run; it’ll be interesting to see how the finished StressSense product shapes up.

The New Scientist reports that “The team plan to make the system a plug-in to an Android app called Be Well, which uses a phone’s accelerometers and GPS sensors to record people’s activity and sleep levels. People will be able to set StressSense to either listen to their voice throughout the day, or to only activate when they are having a phone conversation.” Ideally, the software will be used to help people manage their stress levels by making them more aware of the triggers which cause them stress in the first place.

It’s an interesting idea, and one that has slowly grown on me. My first thought was simply that a phone which monitors your stress levels – but can’t actually do anything about them – is no good to anyone, but anyone who’s ever spent an hour in therapy knows that being able to manage your stress is all about knowing what causes it. I’m sure we all get stressed without even realising it sometimes, and just knowing what your triggers are will at least help you go some way towards figuring out how to deal with them.

Perhaps StressSense can be packaged with an app which teaches you how to actually relieve your stress once it builds up. While I’m curious to see just how StressSense pans out, I doubt I’ll be buying it myself. Life’s stressful enough as it is, without having to fork out for yet another spurious smartphone application.

This was a guest post by Simon from the UK comparison website Best Mobile Contracts.

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