Startup Happy Health is looking to give the mood ring a “smart” makeover. Instead of dubious color-changing stones, it has created Happy Ring, which aims to alert users to their mental health using biometric sensors and artificial intelligence.
The Happy Ring, which just received $60 million in funding, features a custom electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor that monitors changing stress levels in real time. Essentially, the device works by detecting when your sympathetic nervous system, which regulates your fight or flight response, kicks into gear.
“As we begin to have difficult thoughts or experience strong emotions, our brain responds to help us respond to those stimuli,” says Dustin Freckleton, MD, CEO of Happy Health. “The EDA sensors measure the electrical changes that occur in the hand in response to the small amounts of sweat that begin to occur in the palm of the hand.” Freckleton went on to explain that Happy Ring’s EDA sensor then looks for sweat gland openings or sweat production, which is then fed to an algorithm that identifies your emotional state. The ring then continually adjusts the AI model to an individual person’s data, rather than comparing that person’s data to a predetermined set of users.
Those exercises include activities like breathwork, meditation, and journal-based cognitive behavioral therapy. All exercises can be completed on the app and are simultaneously tracked by the ring itself as you complete them.
Other wearables like the Fitbit Sense, Sense 2 and even Manchester City’s upcoming smart scarf also feature EDA sensors as a means of tracking stress or emotion. According to Freckleton, the benefit of a ring is that it’s better suited than wrist- or torso-based trackers for measuring stress, since it’s located on the hand. (Fitbit Sense, for example, requires you to place your hand on the screen to get a reading.)
The device’s sensors also include four skin electrodes, four wavelengths of light, accelerometers and two temperature sensors. It also tracks sleep and general activity and has an estimated battery life of up to three days.
On the surface, much of this sounds familiar for features you’d find on an Oura Ring or Whoop 4.0, minus the custom EDA sensor. However, Rad says the Happy Ring focuses much more on the user’s state of mind, whereas other wearables on the market track metrics like heart rate and heart rate variation as an indicator of how well they’ve recovered. your body from physical stress.
“They [Oura, Whoop] I don’t have any mental health metrics,” says Rad. “We’re not necessarily giving you metrics that are about waking up and helping you perform physically. They talk about effort and recovery. We’re talking about unique measurement aspects of your brain health.”
Freckleton also claims that Happy Ring’s custom algorithm is more accurate than what’s currently on the market, especially since the company has built its EDA sensor from the ground up with “medical-grade” accuracy. He pointed to a study in the journal Sleep comparing the accuracy of the device to various other wearables such as Actiwatch 2, Fitbit Charge 4, Whoop 3.0, and Oura Ring 2nd generation. Granted, the study only looked at a sample of 36 participants over 77 nights, but peer-reviewed studies of any kind are rare when it comes to health and wellness devices.
Which is exactly what the Happy Ring is: a wellness device. It is not intended to diagnose any type of mental condition. According to Rad, the device is “designed to clinical standards, but it is not a clinical device.”
As for when the device will be available, Happy Health has a waiting list and the device will be shipped on a first-come, first-served basis. But one thing that users might not like very much is that, like Whoop and Oura Ring, it uses a subscription model. While you don’t pay for the hardware up front, it’s built in at a monthly, yearly, or 24-month subscription level. The monthly tier costs $30, $24 per month if you pay annually, and $20 per month if you choose the 24-month plan.
Overall, Happy Ring sounds like a good idea, and its concept is an extension of where wearables have gone. While wearable devices were initially glorified pedometers, in recent years there has been a shift towards stress management, sleep tracking, and mindfulness. This accelerated once the pandemic hit. The big question is whether a relative newcomer like Happy Ring can play with what’s already out there.