What if you could scientifically confirm you were stressed? Better yet: What if you could predict a panic attack—and head it off?

The Embrace by Empatica is a wearable device that aims to change the future of stress management. Modeled like a smartwatch, the FDA-approved device analyzes physiological signals to detect seizures. It retails for $249 and, of course, tells time.

“Our focus has been on developing sensors to understand human behavior,” says cofounder Matteo Lai.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1.2% of the population– that’s 3 million adults and 470,000 children–suffer from epilepsy. Empatica attempts to make living with the condition more manageable, while at the same time, using the study of epilepsy as a stepping stone toward an even bigger, more widespread issue: stress and how to deal with it.

Mate app [Photo: courtesy of Empatica]

Measuring stress

“Stress is a complicated concept,” says Rosalind Picard, cofounder and chief scientist of Empatica, Inc., and a professor at the MIT Media Lab. Analyzing stress requires the ability to distinguish “fight or flight” stress from other events that look or feel like it–like say, stress induced by watching your favorite sports team play. Or shopping at Macy’s.

Stress elicits responses in the sympathetic nervous system that can activate sweat glands, often turning your palms clammy. But even if you are not noticeably sweating, the current that runs through activated sweat still changes the surface of the skin. It’s called skin conductance. “And that’s one of the signals we measure that changes…

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