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Medibio has unveiled an app called Luca — a biometric assessment tool that lets users measure their stress levels.

It does so by combining different measurements from your smartphone or wearable devices. The measurements include sleep, activity, and heart rate. Luca also asks you to describe how you were feeling at different times in the day through an easy journaling process. Then it correlates your mental wellness notes with the objective measurements to figure out when you’re experiencing stress.

This kind of tool is pretty timely during the pandemic, as lots of people are facing mental health challenges. Medibio’s aim is to help people get an objective picture of the patterns of stress in their lives and better position them to do something about it.

The app will launch on October 1 and will be available for a 14-day free trial, after which it will cost $8 a month or $46 a year.

The app can run on any iPhone with iOS 13.0 or later, plus an Apple Watch Series 3 and above with WatchOS 5.1.2 or later. It is also compatible with a Garmin smartwatch running Android 8.0 and up.

Beyond just measuring stress variables across sleep, activity, and heart rate, Luca will also help people learn ways to channel negative stress (distress) into positive stress (eustress), managing director Claude Solitario said in an interview with VentureBeat.

How Luca works

Above: Luca measures objective biometrics that relate to stress.

Image Credit: Medibio

Luca provides wearable device users (Apple and Garmin to start) with daily biometric feedback to track and monitor levels of stress in the body. It presents an overall stress score, plus a navigable timeline of stress variables based on sleep, cardiac, and physical activity.

It monitors sleep using data collected by your wearable device and calculates a score once a day. Registering a low sleep score indicates you are not getting quality sleep and should try adjusting your schedule or routine.

Luca also looks at cardiac stress. A higher cardiac score indicates you are achieving a healthy heart rate and using energy above sedentary levels on a more frequent basis. Increased cardiac scores are associated with a healthy lifestyle, including an appropriate heart rate during physical activity and increased energy use.

It also looks at activity stress. A higher activity score indicates you are achieving an increased intensity and duration of daily and weekly activity. Increased cardiac scores are associated with a healthy lifestyle on a daily, weekly, and ongoing basis.

Luca also measures the general amount of stress you might experience in a day. It doesn’t do this in real time for any given minute, but it collects biometrics over a 24-hour period and combines that data with other tools to figure out how your day is going. It also asks users to retake an assessment test every couple of weeks so that they can track their progress. These types of tests can help uncover sources of stress, such as occupational burnout.

Medibio has also created a proprietary Perceived Stress Assessment (where the user completes a self-evaluation) and the Odyssey, an always-on virtual support system developed by Medibio’s own neuroscience team to help identify and confront individual stressors. The app provides an understanding of how stressors can escalate stress, with perspectives on how personal habits and choices can work to mitigate or avoid harmful levels of stress.

“The initial assessment is very short and straightforward, that a person can answer within minutes,” Jennifer Solitario, head of non-regulated products at Medibio, said in an interview with VentureBeat.

Above: Medibio’s assessments help you judge your own levels of stress and what is causing it.

Image Credit: Medibio

Chief medical officer Archie Defillo said in an interview with VentureBeat that sleep, heart rate, and physical activity have a strong correlation to stress levels. But that information alone isn’t enough to decipher stress. You also have to answer the questions related to how you perceive your own stress. The app also walks you through a personality test that measures your emotional intelligence and the things that cause you stress. How you react to stress positively or negatively depends largely on your personality, Defillo said.

“Some people react positively to stress,” he noted. “It really depends on what type of personality you have. Athletes thrive on stress. But if you have a certain personality, then even an athlete may say ‘Enough is enough.'”

When you’re sedentary, you may also be more prone to having negative reactions to stress.

“The concept behind Luca is that by looking at how stress is a factor in the biometrics in your daily life, you will have a better understanding of what triggers your stress reaction,” Defillo said.

Origins

Above: Medibio asks you questions that get at your personality and your reactions to stress.

Image Credit: Medibio

Claude Solitario said the genesis of the research came from psychiatrists in Western Australia, where they were trying to diagnose people with depression and other mental illnesses. They hypothesized that most people who don’t exhibit symptoms of mental health issues have a body and mind in equilibrium, he said. But the team posited that those with a mental health-related illness would exhibit a lack of equilibrium, whether through heart rate or something else that could be objectively measured.

They also found that the best time to measure heart rate was at night, which is what the latest smartwatches can do.

“We incorporated this research into the work that Medibio is doing,” he said.

For the past 18 months, Medibio has accelerated the development of its mental health platform. A team of scientists and software developers came together to create a technology based on machine learning and deep learning techniques. The company has algorithms that it can now use to help identify mental illness and its effects on the body.

“What you’re seeing is a combination of many years of research,” Solitario said. “We have a really interesting set of biometrics and psychometric analysis that will give us a stress score. It will help someone identify the way stressors are affecting them.”

Medibio did its own study of 64 people in Australia, analyzing physical activity as indicators of their response to stress. Medibio had to keep in mind the fact that people won’t typically spend a lot of time typing data into an app. The quizzes it offers are something you can do in a short period of time using a wearable or your smartphone.

“I strongly believe that it is all about becoming knowledgeable [about] and taking control of your own health,” Defillo said. “I believe that the more information we give to people about their health, the better the journey. Then you can get to a personalized solution.”

Over time, Medibio would like to incorporate more advanced measurements, as well as figuring out from someone’s calendar whether certain kinds of meetings or other activities stress them out.

“We see this as a journey,” Claude Solitario said.

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