Dr. Doron Friedman is developing a scientific basis for technologies that will serve the interest of users – lowering stress and improving wellbeing. Dr. Friedman’s project is one of eight academic studies to have received a Joy Ventures’ research grant.
“Technology is already often directing our actions, whether we like it or not,” says Dr. Friedman, a Senior Lecturer and Head of the Advanced Reality Lab at the Sammy Ofer School of Communications in The Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, Israel. Whether we’re clicking, liking, or consuming content, much of our time is spent on the smartphone or computer, and these actions are not random, but rather carefully directed. “Thousands of programmers and companies are making lots of money by working out how to get us to do what they want, and sell us things,” explains Dr. Friedman, using advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and other technologies and platforms.
Dr. Friedman intends to upend this paradigm, and lay the scientific basis for products that learn how to improve people’s well-being and mood. This research is one of eight projects that have recently received a research grant totaling $1M from Joy Ventures.
Dr. Friedman’s research focuses on stress relief, and is being carried out in two stages. In the first stage, researchers are measuring stress levels in study participants, using virtual reality to expose them to stimuli that are much more realistic than what is usually used in stress research. Stress reactions are then measured through parameters like heart rate, GSR (Galvanic Skin Response), heart rate, brain waves and eye movements. In the near future, Dr. Friedman believes, each of us will be able to “read” our own stress levels using smartphones, watches or other simple wearable devices. The results of these studies are then analyzed using advanced machine learning, to better understand what causes us stress and how to lower it.
The second stage of the project focuses on machine induced stress reduction. “Science has already brought us proven stress reduction techniques, like biofeedback,” explains Dr. Friedman, but using them requires an effort on the part of the person, and a proactive decision to engage in the activity.
But what if our watch/phone/device could trigger or offer us an activity that would help lower our stress, in a way that is proven to work, and at the moment we need it the most?
Dr. Friedman’s research direction is part of a groundbreaking new field called Neuro-Wellness. Joy Ventures, a private investment group that invests in early stage startups and entrepreneurs, has taken it upon itself to cultivate and grow the Neuro-Wellness field. Beyond partnering with startup teams and providing long-term support, Joy Ventures also distributes research grants to scientific studies, which have the potential to ultimately translate into consumer products.
“Dr. Friedman’s research is an excellent example of how science can be the basis for consumer products that will improve mood, lower stress, and simply help people feel good, which is our vision,” says Joy Ventures CEO Avi Yaron.
Joy Ventures is a very exciting initiative,” says Dr. Friedman. “This grant allows me and my team to take more risks, and reach beyond the traditionally more conservative approach of mainstream academic research.”
It is clear that Neuro-Wellness is about to go into high gear. Silicon Valley has already set its sights on the brain technology arena – and specifically brain-human interface – with huge projects in the field underway at Facebook, Elon Musk’s Neuralink and Kernel.
“The research being done in this arena is exciting, but what will really be exciting is to see this research becoming commercialized, and resulting in products that will positively impact our lives – and this is the exact spot where Joy Ventures is placed,” concludes Dr. Friedman.