James Hewitt
2 minutes

Emerging Trends in Wellbeing Technology: Digital Support, Stress-Detecting Wearables, and VR Health

I try to keep my eyes peeled for novel businesses and news of fresh funding in the wellbeing technology space. While investment is cooling and founders are generally finding it difficult to raise capital, there’s still tremendous interest in mental health technology. This is unsurprising, as poor mental health is a huge global challenge. According to the WHO, in 2019, 1 in every eight people, or 970 million people worldwide, were living with a mental health issue. Consequently, many companies in this space aim to improve access to treatment or leverage technology in new ways. I’ve been keeping notes on a few interesting developments, so I thought I’d share them here.

Combining digital and human support for mental health

The question of whether it’s possible to deliver effective digital-only mental health support is still open. On the one hand, companies like Bloom recently raised an $8M seed round for its self-guided digital service, which aims to make therapy affordable and accessible, similar to what Calm and Headspace have done for meditation. On the other hand, companies like Meditopia and Meru Health offer digital mental health solutions combined with 1-2-1 support from a human expert. It will be interesting to see whether the digital-only solutions can achieve the efficacy the founders hope for and whether the combined offer can scale profitably.

Stress-detecting wearables

NOWATCH recently raised an $8.7M round and has built a biosensing smartwatch based on Philips algorithms and an ElectroDermal Activity (EDA) sensor, otherwise known as skin conductance, for stress monitoring. WHOOP recently updated its app to include an HRV-based stress detection feature, which appears to use a similar approach to Garmin’s stress score. I expect to see more wearable-based stress detection coming to the market soon. Apple may seem late to the game, but I’m sure their solution will be impressive when it arrives. There are some rumours that future versions of the AirPods may feature biometric sensing, including stress.

Virtual Reality health

Companies like Rocket VR Health, which offers immersive digital therapeutics, and Plutonic, which offers immersive meditation classes, are developing VR/metaverse solutions for mental health treatment and therapy. I wonder what may happen if Apple gets into this space with the Vision Pro.

Overall, these trends indicate a growing focus on mental health and technology-enabled solutions in the wellbeing start-up space and a commitment to improving access. This obviously makes commercial sense, as a larger Total Addressable Market makes a more valuable business. Have you seen any new projects that have piqued your interest?

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