Tinder founder’s latest coin is a ring to quantify mental health – TechCrunch
I am not a branding expert. I can recognize, however, that one sets certain expectations by naming a product “Happy Ring”. Mental health is a delicate area and should not be taken lightly. As a general rule, it’s best to avoid anything that promises to fix you without talk therapy and, perhaps, the required medications. No laptop will replace that – certainly not in our lifetime.
Of course, a consumer device cannot diagnose the conditions either. While doctors are increasingly recommending products like the Apple Watch to consumers, they’re better seen as a proxy for monitoring one’s vital signs all the time we’re away from the doctor’s office.
Ultimately, I don’t think the name Happy Ring does justice to the ambitions of its creators. It both evokes the fashion for mood rings of the 70s, while suggesting that the product punches above its weight in terms of its ability to create profound transformation in the person wearing it. This is a disservice, because there is obviously something to the notion that our emotional states have physical manifestations in our bodies.
This is something a lot of wearable companies are clearly working on. Take a look, for example, at this internal study by Oura, which attempts to answer the question of whether the ring can “help identify symptoms of depression and anxiety.” There’s also this report that shows Apple is working with UCLA to try to use its consumer devices to help identify conditions like anxiety, depression and cognitive decline.
Mental health is, of course, a kind of portable holy grail. Look, it’s really tough out there right now. Who wouldn’t want to just jump on a ring to get a clearer picture of their sanity? Mental health is important, frightening and inscrutable, and traditional methods of dealing with it can seem overwhelming.
Happy Ring does not claim to be a diagnostic tool. Rather, the company believes it has cracked the code for monitoring wearer progress, in a kind of mental health analog to fitness trackers like Apple Watch and Oura. Much like these products, it claims to be a method to monitor these vital readings and present actionable data to help get the wearer back on track.
Tinder founder Sean Rad told TechCrunch that he teamed up with LVL Technologies founder Dustin Freckleton to investigate whether a wearable device can present an accurate picture of its wearer’s mood.
“There were all these wearables that helped you understand your fitness or your sleep,” Rad says. “But they were really ignoring the elephant, which is your mind. They weren’t doing anything about mental health or mental states. We asked the question: can we somehow build a device that can passively start monitoring what’s going on in your brain? If we can do that, can we help people better understand, have language, and better identify what they can do to improve their mental health?”
In addition to the standard range of wearable sensors, the startup points to a bespoke EDA (electrodermal activity) detector as a hardware differentiator for the product. Fitbit announced its own version of the technology a few years ago, as a method of detecting wearer stress levels. Addressing “stress” versus “mental health” with a wearable seems like a more reasonable request.
“If you’re speaking in public, going on a first date, having a job interview, your hands start to sweat a little bit,” Freckleton says. “It’s the emotional response of sweat. There are evolutionary reasons why this happens. The EDA sensor is specifically designed to pick up those tiny changes that occur as a result of micro-sweats on the skin and are the result of activation of the autonomic nervous system.
Founded in late 2019, Happy Health currently employs 40 people, 13 of whom are located in Austin, where the startup is headquartered. The company also just announced a $60 million Series A, led by ARCH Venture Partners.
“The funding went to research, develop and manufacture a truly best-in-class wearable device,” Freckleton says. “There is no comparable device from the sensor level to the data quality level to the AI infrastructure level.”
The pre-order waitlist for the product opens today. The company offers a hardware-as-a-service model right out of the box. There’s no upfront cost for hardware, with plans starting at $20 per month. This includes things like sleep analysis, heart rate monitoring, and diary prompts. The content of mindfulness is limited. Happy says it’s not specifically looking to enter this already crowded market, and is instead exploring potential partnerships with third parties.
There is, however, an actionable aspect of the Connect app, as well as an attempt to map how your mental health changes over time.
“Every metric that we give you in mind is actually real-time,” says Rad. “So you can literally do something, open the app and see the result right away. But we also give you CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) exercises, breathing exercises, meditation, educational pieces – different things that are designed to help you improve.