Stress levels breakthrough with new mobile phone app

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A team of US computer scientists has developed a smartphone application designed to monitor human stress levels.

Stress Levels in employment

It is hoped the technology, called StressSense, will help the stress-prone generally think more clearly and thereby better cope with everyday problems.

Stress is a hormonal response to challenging situations and has potentially severe side-effects. As well as anxiety, anger, depression, sadness and addiction, stress can manifest physically in the form of chest pains, palpitations and bowel problems.

Developed by the computing giant Intel, StressSense follows research proving that tone, speed, pitch and volume of the human voice all change at stressful periods.

Programmed to detect subtle voice alterations induced by physiological changes, StressSense will enable smartphone users to monitor their stress levels over time by recording and analysing the varying vocal tones of their conversations.

Users are encouraged to first relax, before reciting into the smartphone a 3-minute passage of text. This 'teaches' the app to recognise the user's unstressed voice, in the same way as the voice-recognition software included with many computers.

StressSense then sets this recording against future recitals to pinpoint stressful periods.

On testing StressSense on a group of volunteers undergoing mock job interviews, Intel's developer Hong Lu found that the accuracy of stress-recognition was 81% indoors and 76% outdoors with ambient noise.

Mr Lu hopes StressSense will increase individuals' awareness of everyday challenges and help them to better deal with problem resolution.

StressSense will take the form of a plugin for the Android app BeWell, which uses GPS sensors to record users' activity levels and sleep patterns.

The new software will be unveiled at Pittsburgh's Ubicomp conference in September.


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