With so much advancement in the health tech space, calculating a person’s physical health has become so simple and efficient.
But the same can’t be said when it comes to mental health.
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”
These are the words of Shaan Bassi, co-founder of a company that is looking at a new way of viewing mental health.
Kouo is launching a set of headphones alongside a compatible app that measures the brain’s electrical signals and develops an indicator of a person’s emotional wellbeing.
The device features biometric sensors that can detect these currents through the ear-cushions and create personalised algorithms that measure six different emotions second-by-second.
Users can then look at this data and track their wellbeing, seeing what is making them happy and what is troubling them.
From this they can begin to not only improve their mental health, but prevent any further crisis from occurring, as the company’s creative strategist Zoltan Adorjan emphasised.
“Currently people go to a mental health professional or try mindfulness when a problem arises,” he said. “Once that’s over they stop looking after their mental health.
“With measurements and a solution like Kouo you’re able to follow your mental health over time and that can be ingrained in your everyday life, much like a Fitbit or an Apple Watch.
“Therefore you can have a better understanding of how you’re trending over time, seeing what causes you anxiety and you can prevent a mental health crisis because you can see you’re coming up to that point.”
Shaan also echoed this: “Rather than always being in emergency recovery mode, you want people to live more balanced lives.
“It’s the same thing as how you wouldn’t wait until someone was having a heart attack to start optimising their physical health.”
This is one of the things Kouo aims to do, bridge the gap between physical and mental health.
There are countless devices on the market that can measure how healthy someone is physically which often inspires those users to take action.
The same can’t be said for mental health where a lot of patients are unsure how they are actually progressing, making it easy for them to deteriorate over time.
“Wellness at the minute is lopsided towards physical health,” Shaan said. “It’s really great that it has that platform, but we also need to be considering mental wellness because a large part affects how we perceive how good our life is.”
Zoltan agrees, saying how the feelings that Kouo measures affect nearly every part of our lives.
“Your emotional states really dictate how you interact with the world, so if you have a good grasp on how you’re feeling and what you can do about that your interactions will improve substantially.”
Dubbed ‘the headphones that listen’ the makers of Kouo are hoping it will do this and more by helping people start talking about their mental health.
These conversations is something that is often stigmatised with Shaan, who has had experience dealing with his own mental issues in the past, saying data can help break down this taboo.
“The big thing with Kouo is through giving people insights and analytics it enables people to better navigate those different emotional states and better converse about it.
“Increasing understanding allows people to simply talk about it more, which helps people to really understand their mental wellbeing.”
Giving people this empowerment to openly discuss how they are coping mentally is a key feature of Kouo, says Zoltan.
“People are different,” he said. “If you have dialogue around mental health you have more acceptance and we’re trying to support people in terms of their own personal journey as well as finding what gives them more happiness and what empowers them.
“We want to support their journey towards a happier life and that comes from that self knowledge that they get through using Kouo.”
Alongside the headphones comes the compatible app where users can view how their emotions have fluctuated throughout the day.
This is not it’s only use however as the developers saw an opportunity to bring more support and guidance to those who need it.
They are looking to add a range of mental health related content to the platform, but this will not just be generic content for the average person.
Through the headphones sensors and machine learning algorithms the app will be able to decipher what the user needs to help with their wellbeing journey, pointing them in the direction of relevant practices and methods.
Currently Kouo offers a range of mindfulness programs for its consumers but the developers are looking to branch out into other areas that are proven to improve a person’s mood, such as the use of personalised music playlists to do this.
One thing Zoltan did highlight is the need to be conscientious when it comes to the presentation of the app, something which the company has worked with a number of psychologists on.
This has largely been due to its partnership with London Southbank University, as well as the founder’s close ties to Imperial College London.
Because it is not a medical device those at Kouo is looking to work alongside these professionals rather than replace them.
“Talking to a human being will always be important when you’re going through a crisis,” Zoltan said. “But there is a certain degree of help we can provide that is preventative, allowing people to better manage their mental health.
With the product set to launch in around six months, Kouo is also collaborating with a number of leading mental health charities to make sure they are giving its users the best possible help.
In terms of how big this technology can go, those at Kouo see it as potentially being a method of measuring health in a more holistic way and improving the services around them.
Providing people with a measure of their mental health and providing them with the means to recognise when they are struggling will be crucial as the world returns back to normality following the pandemic.
“We really expect this to be a normal part of life,” Shaan said.
This is why those at Kouo see this type of technology being so crucial, offering up innovative solutions and dynamic ways to help what is an increasing but still relatively new issue.