Though it is true a big part of the wearable technology market is aimed at better connecting us through rings, headsets and everything in between, a sizable chunk is also directed at maintaining our physical well-being. Joining the likes of Thimble Electronics and migraine-preventing headband Cefaly is start-up Quell, which bills its device as the first over-the-counter wearable that offers relief from chronic pain.
Like Cefaly, which the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) approved early last year, Quell has also been cleared for use by the federal agency. The company first unveiled the device at CES earlier this year and has now kicked off a crowdfunding campaign to bring its pain-relieving wearable to market.
The device uses transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), a type of treatment that is somewhat common, but typically requires the user to be anchored down by a small machine that delivers electrical currents to the nerves for the purpose of relieving pain. But as wearable electronics have evolved, so to have efforts to incorporate the technology into devices that can be worn on the body. One example is that of Thimble Biolectronics, which is developing a small bandage that can applied to the affected area.
Quell's answer is a slim device that is slipped into a sports band and worn around the upper calf. An electrode is in direct contact with the skin and stimulates sensory nerves in the calf, which the company says serves to carry neural pulses to the brain that in turn trigger the body's natural pain relief mechanism, releasing endogenous opioids (opioid-peptides produced in the body) into the spine.
The device can be customized through a calibration process, which is designed to cater to varying levels of pain and sensitivity by optimizing the level of stimulation. It also connects to an iOS app (Android on the way) over Bluetooth 4.0, which enables the user to monitor their therapy sessions and also allows the device to double as a sleep tracker.
Setting out to raise US$100,000 on Indiegogo, the makers of Quell have attracted more than $270,000 in pledges at the time of writing. The device is being offered for an early pledge of $199, with shipping slated for June 2015 if all goes to plan.
You can check out the team's pitch video below.