How are personal fitness and mental capacity related? This is studied by the interdisciplinary research group hiper.campus at KIT, the objective being to increase cognitive performance. One of the ideas of the group headed by Dr. Stefan Hey will now result in a new company. With about EUR 350,000 from the EXIST program, the Federal Ministry of Economics will fund the business idea of a stress guard for a duration of 18 months. Stress guard is a sensor system worn directly on the body.
Stress guard determines parameters like ECG and physical activity in a mobile and continuous manner in order to evaluate physical and mental stress of the user. Moreover, the device supports the user in increasing his/her performance by intelligent feedbacks. By controlling and documenting stress over a longer term, Stress guard reminds the user of sufficient exercise. It is possible to check, for instance, whether an attempt to overcome stress – a short break or sports – is effective. Stress guard can also help to interrupt a stress situation, if a threshold value is exceeded by transmitting an acoustic or tactile signal that is associated with a recommended action.
The device consists of a chest strap with integrated electrodes and further sensors. Apart from the biosignals, these sensors also detect the movement intensity of the user – only then can it be found that stress really is the cause of a higher pulse rate. And only then do these sensors “supply data on mental and psychic stress”, according to Hey.
“The interest of other research institutions in this instrument is high”, says Stefan Hey. The device was used in the field of physio-economics to study the effect of stress on economic decisions. Inquiries have also been submitted by research institutions that wish to measure the stress of on-call service staff or to study stress of addicts.
Dr. Jörg Ottenbacher, Dr. Ulrich Großmann, and Jürgen Stumpp, three KIT scientists, will form the core team of the enterprise that will be founded to commercialize the device in a stepwise process. After interested science institutions, they want to contact people and groups that professionally concentrate on fitness and stress. Then, end consumers will be contacted.
hiper.campus is a research group funded under the Excellence Initiative of the Federal Republic of Germany and the federal states at the House of Competence (HoC) of KIT, in which electrical engineers, psychologists, and sports scientists cooperate. The group searches for ways of training the body and spirit with the help of electronic means. It is focused on the relationship of stress and physical as well as mental performance. And it is studied how physical activity influences cognitive performance. According to Hey, few data have been gained so far for young adults. The research group intends to transfer its developments to the studies sector and to establish a virtual coach that demonstrates students how sports may increase their mental capacity.
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