As frightening headlines flash across our screens daily and crisis after crisis seems to unfold, it is easy to forget what happens to people after tragedy strikes. Whether that be veterans of war or survivors of devastation, life can often seem to move on without leaving a trace of the past. However, these traces remain in the minds of survivors, who rarely seek out the treatment they need and deserve, and are instead forced to try to go back to business as usual. The long term consequences of suppressing the anxiety and PTSD that can follow traumatic incidents lead to worse conditions and symptoms, impacting health, life expectancy, and relationships as a result. We wanted to create a device that helps survivors identify if they are experiencing a traumatic episode as well as those with general anxiety, and give them an immediate coping mechanism.
What it does
Artem is a wearable pulse sensor that communicates with an Android app that identifies when the user's pulse is suddenly elevated and initiates a series of coping techniques. The app will play calming sounds as it guides the user through the popular 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique for anxiety, asking the user to identify five things they can see, four things they can touch, three things they can hear, two things they can smell, and finally one thing they can taste around them. This helps the user recenter themselves and focus on their senses and can help curb an episode or attack. It then goes through a breathing exercise with them so they can focus on breathing properly to calm them down.
How we built it
We used a pulse sensor that uses an ambient light sensor and a bright green LED to find the pulse of the user. Using an Arduino 101, we converted the analog pulse signal to BPM and then sent that signal using the Bluetooth Low-Emitting (BLE) capabilities of the Arduino 101 to communicate with an Android app. We modified the app design of the nRF Toolbox app to fit our needs and added the grounding and breathing techniques using Android Studio.
Challenges we ran into
While we have experience with sensors and Arduino, we had no prior background with either BLE or Android Studio and app development. This proved to be difficult at times, especially since the pulse sensor can be somewhat finicky and requires specific thresholding that we did not understand at first. Additionally, the 101 functions a little differently than a typical Uno, and overall the hardware had a small learning curve. Working in Android Studio also proved to be difficult and finicky.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We are really proud of the finished product, as there were definitely moments where we wondered if our idea could be realized, but we accomplished our original vision and goal. Additionally, the look of the wearable, a necklace made from the ribbon hair ties that were given out, actually looks pretty cute and we would wear it publicly without it looking particularly clunky or out of place.
What we learned
It was really fun to experiment with new kinds of embedded systems and IOT than we typically work with and step out of our comfort zone. We learned about BLE and its applications as well as app development with Android Studio.
What's next for Artem
In the future, we would like to have the necklace be mostly self-contained, in that there are no wires or anything noticeable coming from it. This is so the device can remain subtle and that its users will not need to feel like their issues are on display to strangers and can wear the device in public without feeling ashamed. Additionally, we would like to improve on the UI of the app to make it more user-friendly and visually pleasing. We would also like for it to have a feature that would allow the user to contact either a relative, close friend, or therapist when they are having an attack or episode.