A tiny device created by a Dublin technology company called The Pip is combining video gaming with mobile devices like the iPhone to defeat stress.
The device measures electrodermal activity (EDA) in your fingertips, which detects changes in the skin’s ability to conduct an electrical current. For example, when faced with a stressful situation this triggers sweat gland activity on the surface of the skin.
Using this technology, The Pip detects tiny fluctuations in the sweat level of your fingertips at least eight times per second, determining whether you are stressed or relaxing.
The device created by the Dublin start-up is held between two fingers and the user focuses on a variety of video games from racing dragons to a game called The Loom, which depicts forest scenes that change from winter to summer based on how calm the person is.
By relaxing and breathing the player develops an edge in the game.
‘Over 20 different universities and institutions have tested and trialled The Pip and we are getting a lot of interest from Europe, the US and Australia’
– DAVID INGRAM, THE PIP
“It basically measures emotional sweat,” explained CEO of The Pip David Ingram, a seasoned executive who spent over 22 years in financial services, including six years with General Electric.
“Our device basically picks up biosignals and transforms the EDA into a gaming environment and you can win games based on willing yourself to be calm.
“It is effectively planting your stress levels in a virtual world and you will yourself to defeat anxiety and stress through a visual interface.”
A mindful way to combat stress
The Pip device, which consists of two gold plates sandwiching electronics for measuring EDA is patent pending, Ingram explained.
Users play virtual games like The Loom or by racing dragons (the calmer you are the faster your dragon goes) in Relax and Race as a way of focusing their minds to be calm.
Ingram said workers have used The Pip to better handle stressful environments and he cited one person who he claimed effectively managed a situation with a bullying boss so well that she was able to come off anxiety pills by using The Loom three times a day.
“We have domain experience in making smart technology and The Loom is a mindfulness app and we have a pipeline of similar games on the way.”
Ingram explained that the genesis of the technology was in calming games developed at MIT’s MediaLab Europe before it closed in 2005
“Back then the world didn’t have a digital health focus and the App Store didn’t exist.”
The team took the technology and created a device that can measure EDA eight times per second and developed apps for the iOS and Google Play store.
A Kickstarter campaign in 2013 resulted in The Pip being one of the first campaigns to raise more than $100,000 on the crowdfunding platform.
“This is a strong Irish story because we have found a good manufacturing partner in Flextronics in Cork.”
As well as Kickstarter, which was mainly around promoting the concept, The Pip has raised more than €600,000 in funding through EIIS as well as €2.4m from a number of investors.
“We have made our own luck so far,” Ingram explained. “And we were sure to get the right investors and partners as well as the right scientific validation.”
The Pip’s advisory board is chaired by Professor Ian Robertson, Professor of Psychology at Trinity College and director of the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience.
“Over 20 different universities and institutions have tested and trialled The Pip and we are getting a lot of interest from Europe, the US and Australia.”
Ingram said that typically doctors testing the technology will buy The Pip and usually within weeks will order more for their patients.
“The early adopters are those who are interested in their mental fitness.”
Ingram added that The Pip, which sells for €179, recently signed two distribution deals in Europe that cover over 160 resellers.
“We are consumerising the use of EDA in a friendly, gamified fashion.”