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Founders Aneela and Sameer Kumar of HabitAware with the "Keen" behavior-alerting bracelet.

HabitAware, a 2018 Minnesota Cup entrepreneur sweepstakes grand prize winner, has been awarded a $225,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant by the National Science Foundation to improve its “real-time” awareness solution for those who suffer from body-focused repetitive behaviors, such as nail biting, skin picking or hair pulling.

HabitAware will design and test a novel wearable sensing system with new sensor technologies that can detect subtle movements associated with body-focused repetitive behaviors and can significantly improve detection accuracy of body-focused related behaviors.

“NSF is proud to support the technology of the future by thinking beyond incremental developments and funding the most creative, impactful ideas across all markets and areas of science and engineering,” said Andrea Belz, director of the Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships at NSF. “With the support of our research funds, any deep technology startup or small business can guide basic science into meaningful solutions that address tremendous needs.”

(Here is my November 2018 column about the founders of HabitAware: http://strib.mn/2PCSf2J)

The study will seek to improve upon HabitAware’s publicly available awareness bracelet, Keen. It uses patented gesture-detection technology to allow a user to train the Keen bracelet by performing the exact behavior they want to reduce (e.g. hair pulling). Keen continuously monitors the user's wrist movements, vibrating when it detects the trained behavior. The gentle vibration interrupts the behavior pattern, creating awareness of restless hand movements and allowing the user to make healthier choices to cope with stress, anxiety, boredom or other triggers. With awareness, and a willingness to change, an individual can take control as the vibration of the bracelet in real-time allows one to break free of the compulsion to pull their hair or pick their skin or bite their nails.

Through the study, HabitAware will collaborate on new sensor technologies suitable for mass production that will improve the gesture detection performance of the bracelet and widen its capabilities.

“This project has the potential to be a game-changing innovation for those suffering from these under-addressed disorders,” said John Pritchard, HabitAware’s lead hardware engineer.