Hands-on: Can a heartbeat-simulating wearable tweak your mood?

    Wearable tech is often associated with smartwatches and fitness trackers, but we’ve also seen a niche group of consumer products aimed at regulating emotions. While it’s an area ripe for a placebo effect, we found Doppel, a heartbeat-simulating wrist wearable, to be curious enough to demo at CES 2017.

    The idea behind Doppel: strap the watch-like device to your wrist, facing inwards, and the wearable will vibrate to a set rhythm, chosen in a companion smartphone app. A slower simulated heartbeat will supposedly slow your own heart rate, making you feel calmer; a faster beat, conversely, will energize and perhaps focus you.

    Along similar lines as the Thync brain-zapping wearable, Doppel is promising nothing less than drug-free mood alteration, courtesy of modern technology.

    Doppel with charger

    My demo in a crowded CES showcase room wasn’t lengthy enough to draw any definitive conclusions, even of the anecdotal variety, but I did perceive Doppel as making me feel slightly calmer, as the unit tapped out a 57-BPM heartbeat on the inside of my right wrist. Like listening to a relaxing piece of music, something in my brain seemed to take a cue from the rhythm and I experienced what felt like a mellow mood.

    On the other hand, maybe I was just feeling what I wanted or expected to feel. The placebo effect is a well-documented and powerful phenomenon in skewing scientific studies, and with a mood-altering wearable, where the goal is more about subjective feeling than physically-measured response, firm conclusions become even murkier.

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