Breakout: Biofeedback for m-Health

Biofeedback training has been used with success to treat a range of health problems, including: migraines, anxiety, attention deficit disorder and motion sickness. In this breakout session we consider the opportunities and challenges involved in translating these techniques into m-health applications.

Hosted by Kiel Gilleade(

Time: Saturday 1.30 pm in the Harvard Room

Hi everyone!

Below is some background on this session;

By trade I develop interactive systems which use brain and body signals as an input control (e.g. videogames that adapt difficulty to a player’s level of workload and motivation [1]). These systems predominantly rely on a feedback mechanism called the biofeedback loop which takes biological information from a user (e.g. brainwave activity) and presents it back to them in some form or another (e.g. visually). This in turn influences the source signal and creates a feedback loop. This feedback mechanism has been used in various forms to train users to control their biological signals in order to bring about a beneficial change in behaviour. For example improving attention in children with ADHD [2].

Recently I’ve been interested in translating these techniques to mobile applications where such techniques are not normally deployed, which has picked up steam in both the commercial and academic world. For instance, the PIP, a mobile biofeedback system aimed at stress management [3] was successfully funded via Kickstarter last year. This system uses its own sensor (measuring skin conductance) to help users manage their stress through a series of biologically controlled mini-games (for more information I recommend consulting this paper [4], which details the earliest incarnation of the PIP system back in its MIT Media Lab Europe days).

In this breakout session I’m interested in discussing the opportunities and challenges involved in developing mobile biofeedback applications, especially those that focus on using only the sensors built into your average phone. I recommend checking out (and trying if you have the necessary sensors) the following mobile apps before the breakout session to give you a flavour of the apps and tools currently available on the mobile market:-

If you’re interested in this topic and have any thoughts on where we should take this session please get in touch. I’m looking forward to seeing you all!

  • Kiel

p.s. For more information about the work I do please visit my research website and personal website


  1. Construction of the biocybernetic loop: a case study
  2. The Evidence-Base for Neurofeedback as a Reimbursable Healthcare Service to Treat Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Hi Kiel

I’m personally interested in biofeedback devices which could connect to smartphones (e.g. vs BT4.0) and which could be used for stress management and meditation assistance during a daily activity.

I don’t think that smartphone’s built-in sensors are good for these purposes.

Regarding PIP which you mentioned and which uses GSR - I don’t like the idea of holding something between fingers - this is not convenient and makes this device just a toy (IMHO). Armband strap would be better… Do you know such projects?

Another field are EEG devices. I ordered Muse just today; there is also Melon which got funding, they promise to release it this year… And EMOTIV which got funding as well (though I don’t like the pictures - the device seems too bulky). Will see…

If you have any practical suggestions - let’s discuss. I’m interested to support and participate in developing of new generation devices like these. But only if we have something concrete to discuss :wink:

Thank you to everyone who came to this session! A thoroughly enjoyable and engaging discussion! Please feel free to continue the discussion here; after the conference I’ll try to answer as many questions as I can that we’re raised during the breakout session and on the forums. If I forget anything please prompt me (already lost one notepad so far today, hopefully I won’t lose the second).

If you wish to talk further please contact me via email: gilleade (at) gmail (.com)
Or find me at the conference, I’m in Amsterdam until Monday.

Thanks again!


Thanks for coming to the session.

The only armband tech I know off hand which measures HRV is BodyMedia. As to whether this offers app development opportunities I don’t know*. A more useful tech to look into is wrist based pulse oximetry such as the alpha-mio and my-basis which are likely to be more consumer friendly in a mobile setting compared to the traditional chest strap heart monitor.

When your thinking of which hardware to support, I would start by identifying the use case first. What problem is the device trying to solve and is that of interest to me? The current crop of EEG devices tend to focus on the forehead region which doesn’t provide very good signal quality thereby limiting their application. The OpenBCI device seems interesting given its a low cost EEG with free moving electrodes. Meaning you can target the sites of interest on the head.


  • Working from my iPad for the next few days. Not as easy as I’d hoped :slight_smile:

Hi Kiel

I put this in the 1st sentence of my previous post :slight_smile:

I’m personally interested in biofeedback devices which could connect to smartphones (e.g. vs BT4.0) and which could be used for stress management and meditation assistance during a daily activity.

Not sure that HRV is really good; my experience with emWave is mixed; perhaps GSR would be a better option, or the combination of both. What’s your opinion?

Addition to my post.

The device you mentioned (Basis watch) is more like activity tracker. It also measures skin conductance - but only to measure perspiration and calculate calories burnt. As for HRV - in Amazon enough reviews that their HR is working not correctly especially during movements. Apple iWatch is going to be released shortly - seems to be from the same category.

However, I found in the Internet one stress watch Neumitra
for 1,500$

and another one Empatica which is available only to hospitals, etc

A couple of answers to session queries I didn’t get around too:

Anything else I missed?

  • Kiel


Apologies, my original comment on sensors was in reference to applications of EEG tech rather than stress management. As mobile biofeedback is recently new, there a not a lot of applications I can point you too, rather sensors which might be suitable (e.g. Wild Divine is probably the most well known commercial personal biofeedback system but it’s not mobile).

The neumitra looks interesting, but I’d like to see an evaluation of their biofeedback app to see the effectiveness of their training protocol or alternatively which training protocol their using so I can look it up.

  • Kiel

There is also having the skin conductance measurement