Nowadays, people can collect their heart rate data and quality of their sleep by using wearable devices. However, there had not been a technology that made it possible for people to easily scale their mental conditions.
WINFrontier Co., Ltd., invented an application called “COCOLOLO” that checks up ones’ mental state by taking their heart rate.
I interviewed Kenichi Itao, CEO of WINFrontier Co., Ltd.
– What was the motivation behind developing COCOLOLO?
Although COCOLOLO analyzes heard rate changes using smartphone camera, we used to provide customers with services using wearable sensors in the past.
Pursuing its convenience, we came to the conclusion that it will be the best for us to develop a system customers can do it all on their smartphones instead of having to use smartphones plus some other devices.
It was a disadvantage for customers to have to purchase wearable sensors to measure their mental conditions. So, it just made sense for us to modernize the system so that customers can do it all on their smartphones.
Selling electric devices was not our field of expertise, so putting our focus on the smartphone was a natural flow for us.
We visualize and quantify ones’ data, but measuring ones’ heart rate is not the ultimate goal for us. As a next step, thinking about what we can do exploiting those data is more valuable for us.
– What kind of technology is being utilized in creating COCOLOLO?
If you touch your smartphone camera with your finger, red color will appear on your screen. Redness shows its luminance.
As your bloodstream moves, hemoglobin floats around in your blood and the brightness of the red on the screen slightly changes. If you capture changes in brightness and generate the waves of graph, you can measure your average heart rate per a minute. We are not only examining heart rates, but also analyzing heart rate variability.
In order to analyze the fluctuation of the heart rate, we need to capture its wave even more precisely. And that is where quality of our technology system is being tested. If we only take a look at the heart rate, our data through our system is comparable to that of specialized sensors. As far as measuring the fluctuation of the heart rate, we have achieved 80% accuracy. Mechanism is that we can take heart rate while getting its fluctuation data.
– So, would you say what sets your company apart from the competitors is the fact that you have adapted the heart rate variability analyses method?
Yes, what makes us unique is that we utilize smartphone camera to detect the color of the blood and to make analysis of the blood luminance. And that we obtain respectable amount of statistical data collected from our heartbeat sensor products.
Under the supervision of MD, PhD, Yahagi, the University of Tokyo, School of Medicine, and MD, PhD, Kobayashi, Juntendo University Hospital, we acquire the analysis of our numeric data as our strong foundation.
Since numeric data is being determined by user’s age and sex or BMI (Body Mass Index), we are implementing the attribute information in our system as an initial base.
I can say the reasons why our company differs from our competitors are utilization of smartphone cameras and our heart rate variability analyses method.
– I see. I understand COCOLOLO is user-friendly and users will get their result that fall into one of the 8 phases of feelings. But in reality, is the application gathering more accurate data? Or can it reveal more than just users’ mental state?
At this point, we are categorizing their data into 8 phases, but we are hoping to be able to minutely classify the data into more numbers of phases in the future.
Also, we are keeping our close watch on the balance of autonomic nerve. The autonomic nerve is being influenced by people’s age and we can figure out the autonomic nerve age and the signs of anti-aging by the collected data.
– Using this application on your smartphone, I see users can evaluate your mental health and physical health. You talked about cultivating the collected data into something more, but what are your ideas?
Recently, we live in a stressful society with estimated over a million people who suffer from depression. But it is said to be impossible to visualize people’s mental conditions. That is where we come in, making it visible in people’s immediate vicinity. We are hoping our application to serve users as a barometer for adjusting their lifestyle.
For example we recently started new service that COCOLOLO users with high-stress level can receive coupons for Spa visits. We are aiming to expand its ideas to other relaxation fields such as music. Studying users’ data, we are hoping to develop a system that customizes their preference in music. Therefore, customers can enjoy personalized music that helps with their mental conditions at a time.
– So, in the future, does it mean the application will recommend what music they should listen to regardless of their taste in music?
Yes, we would like to speed up that process.
– There are many IoT services in the market that give you suggestions in music by users’ history search. But there is no application like COCOLOLO that recommends various kid music that users should listen to based on their current mental states.
In other words, the recommendation that comes up based on users history and tastes and such exist in the world with their consciousness. But the suggestion that COCOLOLO makes is based on users’ present mental states, which was an undeveloped field in the market.
– Wearing a device kind of like an Apple Watch, in the near future, we might live in a world where that device will read our biological information and change the music we are listening or we can get coupons through TV.
Our idea is fairly close to the smart phone application called “Oyasumi Navi” released by Panasonic. Their application enables people to adjust their air conditioner while they are sleeping. They utilized biological information to create solution for customers’ needs. In their case, it was to adjust air conditioner unit. But the idea is to apply the biological information into an action.
※1 Oyasumi Navi
– It sure sounds like there are a lot to do yet.
Yes, it is like we have just started climbing up a hill.
Originally, the healthcare and medical fields were not my expertise. I have work for Sony for 11 years engaging in the electronics business area that focused on making people’s lives more prosperous.
It is said that prevention of lifestyle related disease as same as mental disease are becoming more crucial these days.
It might be difficult to have motivation to keep records of your mental condition if you are someone without mental disease.
That is where I want to create a genre called healthcare entertainment by combining entertainment factor that I cultivated at Sony and the healthcare. When working for Sony, I was wishing our products to have impact on our society like serving as a social contribution. It will be ideal if we can relieve or reduce people’s stress through relaxing music or images. As a matter of fact, we are already in communication with a company that provides healing music.
But if you are listening to only healing music, it is as if you are taking medicine. Everybody wants snacks. So, we are hoping to develop something like Food for Specified Health Uses (FOSHU) in healthcare entertainment business world.
– Is it like you have days you don’t want to listen to your favorite music although you like that music?
Yes, it is similar to that.
– Liking particular music doesn’t always mean you want to listen to it now. So, that mood swings and the entertainment factor could affect on each other. Where did your initial concept come from?
The idea came to me when I was thinking if I could control my moods by listening to music or by using something familiar to everybody. Quantification was absolute necessity.
In order to quantify, we needed a barometer that shows ones mood changes such as being stressed or being relaxed. And we started thinking about what we could do with the acquired heat rate variability analysis.
Our goal is not to elucidate the cause of depression, but as I study the field, I keenly realize how challenging the issue is.
To deal with the mental disease, we need to accumulate data to observe when and how people have tendency to develop mental illnesses. Building up such data is a hardship we have to overcome because it has not been done before. It requires some kind of a catch for mental disease free people to want to keep building up their data. With that catch being effective, we will be able to take that data and put it into some kind of practical forms.
– When I use COCOLOLO, I always get the result with icon that shows crying face. Is that bad? I never get the icon with smiley face. I check when I first get up in the morning or when I am watching TV, but the result is always the same. The best result that I had so far was when I was just finishing up at work. Isn’t it terrible?
That is a proof of a typical workaholic. That means you keep your mental well balanced by working, so you are just better off working and working.
– I see. That is how I continue to be then. When you see a bad result on your application, what are the things that you can do to manage yourself?
Actually, there are not many things you can do, but the breathing method is something you can try. What COCOLOLO is monitoring is the balance of autonomic nerves, so exhaling longer can achieve relaxation effect on the result. It is the best to keep the 1 to 2 breathing ratio. Let’s say you inhale as long as 1, then, you exhale as long as 2. Doing yoga or walking maybe effective for relaxation too.
– That sounds easy, doesn’t it?
Yes. What I would like to recommend you to use is the calendar function of the application. In my case, my stress level is higher on Sundays compared to other days of the week. But that happens when you are lacking enough sleep and have no energy to do anything.
By the way, when Mr. Hiromi Go(a Japanese singer) measured his on TV, the result showed he is 20 years younger than his actual age. He seems to take care of himself very well, and his voice training may be the reason for his excellent result.
My result indicates June records 64% which is ideal, May records 64%, April records 63%, and March records 63%. So, when I look at my result weekly, it seems that I have a lot of mood swings, but seeing the monthly records, I am getting a stable numbers. Ideally, we would like the users to look back on their life-style and that will encourage them to take better care of themselves. We are hoping to create more varieties in how we present the results to the users.
– Are there any latest updates on the application that you would like to mention?
We are currently working on the next version of the application, and the electronic book function will soon be added to it. The new function suggests books you might want to read based on the result you get in that morning.
– I often wonder if the rug for the entrance at my house will work like a weight scale. We constantly get on the rug at the entrance and have almost always have smartphones on us. So, it would be ideal if it could scale our weight using like beacon device. It saves time to get on the weight scale.
As you said, the ultimate goal is to acquire the data while doing something else. COCOLOLO does not require special devise, but to pull out the camera on your smartphone is an additional step for the users. So, that is our next task to try to simplify that step. Our great advantage is the analysis method we obtain. We are seeking the ways for our application to collaborate with other electric devises.
– I have the weather forecast radar application downloaded on my smartphone. Though most of the time I am forgetting that I even have that application on my phone, it is very helpful when it sends a brief notification about the weather. So, it will be very nice if COCOLOLO would notify the user when their stress level is rising and that they need to take rest or something like that.
Exactly, I feel it is important to let our users know of the need of change of pace. As you mentioned, it would be amazing if we could send the users personalized messages like “Let’s check your stress level now.” Based on the data we accumulate.
– They were exciting stories for the future that you shared with us today. Thank you very much.
Previous healthcare devices seem to be only capable of taking records of your vitals and letting users know of the numeric data. So, the users tend to be those with health-conscious minds, not necessarily enjoying the device. However, as Mr. Itao said, if they cultivate the field of Healthcare Entertainment, there will be a day that people can enjoy maintaining their health. And there will be a day many can prevent various diseases once the application become established in people’s dairy life.
I am very excited about the arrival of Healthcare Entertainment.[Related Links]
WINFrontier, Co., Ltd.