Editor’s note: See Biofeedz pitch to investors at 2pm in the Equus Room on Tuesday, Oct 9th.
Biofeedz began as an idea in founder Dr. Chris Morley’s head all the way back in 1994 while he observed patients responding to in-office biofeedback treatment. Biofeedback is the process of showing people real-time information about automatic bodily functions like heart rate, skin conductivity, and even blood flow to bring attention to and ultimately control them. As a demonstrated effective treatment for chronic stress, PTSD, migraines, high blood pressure, and asthma, among other problems, biofeedback was an exciting place to be working.
But Dr. Morley had a problem; he was witnessing patients attaining great results in his office, but then failing to fully transition those successes to the real world. His patients were having trouble using the skills they learned in the office, where they had proper equipment and a low stress atmosphere, to situations with a lack of proper equipment and higher levels of stress—the areas where they most needed those skills.
At the time, Dr. Morley played with the idea of portable biofeedback systems that would allow his patients to practice controlling their automatic responses outside the office. This would allow PTSD patients to learn to control their stress response where it mattered most. Unfortunately, at the time, lugging around large computers with large sensors was not an option and the idea was put on hold.
Flash forward to March 2008. Apple had just released its software development kit (SDK) and an idea Dr. Morley had been waiting on for 14 years suddenly seemed significantly more attainable. With a fast, ultra portable computer in many patients’ pockets, Dr. Morley started work on what would become Biofeedz.
Dr. Morley was fortunate enough to find one of the most experienced biofeedback development engineers in the country, Neil Blank, right in Colorado. Neil had developed and overseen the manufacturing of successful biofeedback devices, and had also been thinking about using smart phones in his development. With Neil’s expertise, this idea could come to market. Adding the marketing expertise and business connections of Peter Renton enabled Biofeedz to raise their first round of angel investment, and established a team that could move this product forward on many fronts at once.
Originally, the goal of Biofeedz was to create a slew of devices that helped patients by supplying them with easy to use, engaging, and effective biofeedback apps. This work started with development of a sensor-equipped glove that could give patients real-time feedback in the form of music, graphs, images, or animations via a Bluetooth connection with their smart phones. The sensor package inside the glove, known as a Bio-node, could be swapped into hats, shirts, straps, or even baby clothing.
The applications of this type of technology are wide spread. For example, imagine a PTSD afflicted vet who experiences significant anxiety in a specific situation or activity. The Veteran’s Health Administration uses biofeedback as a treatment method for PTSD, but treatment in the doctors office does not always translate into lower stress levels during anxiety inducing activities. With Biofeedz technology, veterans can practice biofeedback during activities or at locations that cause them anxiety. What’s more, the technology allows them to practice without even getting their iPhone out of their pocket. All they have to do is slip in some ear buds, and the software can give them audio signals about their automatic responses.
After securing initial funding, bringing on an expert engineer and several prototype iterations, Biofeedz has a working prototype that can wirelessly sense heart rate, skin conductivity, temperature, pressure and motion. It can perform biofeedback via a host of interactive apps while the patient is moving or stationary, and can send information to the patient’s doctor remotely.
Dr. Morley thinks Biofeedz has just hit the tip of the iceberg. As he sees it, Biofeedz has created a powerful controller with many eventual applications. Biofeedback is Biofeedz’s entrance point, but not its eventual limit. To Dr. Morley, the Bio-node system Biofeedz has created has implications across all human-machine interfaces with a near unimaginable number of applications.