Wearable light therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Wearable light therapy prototypes (clockwise from left): fascinator hat, glasses, golfer’s hat, cowl, hood.

“Lightwear” consists of a series of garment- and accessory-based light-emitting wearables designed to administer light therapy for mobile treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). To date, there have been few successful products developed for wearability and portability to ease the uncomfortable nature of traditional light box treatment.  Lightwear explores the integration of light into 3D printed and textile substrates to create fashion-forward wearables to address issues related to Bright Light Therapy efficacy, usability, adoption, and convenience. This work was  presented at TEI 2015 and was developed at Microsoft Research by Halley Profita (CS PhD at CU Boulder), Asta Roseway, and Mary Czerwinski.

Dedicated light box used to treat SAD (left); fiber optic wearable light therapy scarf (right).

Bright Light Therapy (BLT) has been used to treat SAD for more than 25 years. While light boxes continue to serve as the predominant method of treatment, it often requires a user to sit at a dedicated location for a sustained period of time (30-60 minutes), rendering therapy inconvenient and resulting in unsatisfactory compliance rates. Other portable light treatment options, such as light visors, exist. However, they remain socially stigmatizing, obtrusive, and continue to obstruct many of the activities that portability seeks to solve. Our motivation for researching mobile treatment options comes from low adherence rates around using light boxes and light visors. New light-emitting materials and smaller hardware profiles permit for the exploration of novel, wearable form factors that can serve as alternative light therapy treatment options. The ‘Lightwear’ series was developed to explore how non-traditional textile and wearable forms of light therapy can help with BLT adoption and compliance.

Paper Citations:

Halley P Profita, Asta Roseway, and Mary Czerwinski. “Lightwear: An Exploration in Wearable Light Therapy.” Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction (TEI). ACM, 2015.

Halley P Profita, Asta Roseway, and Mary Czerwinski. “Personal and social considerations of wearable light therapy for seasonal affective disorder.” Proceedings of the 10th EAI International Conference on Pervasive Computing Technologies for Healthcare (PervasiveHealth), 2016.
*Best Paper Award*