Empatica Inc. was founded in 2013 in Cambridge, MA, by Matteo Lai, Simone Tognetti, Maurizio Garbarino and Rosalind Picard. Picard serves as part-time Chief Scientist and Chairman of the board, while Lai is full-time CEO, Tognetti is CTO, and Garbarino is CSA.
In 2014, in partnership with The Epilepsy Foundation, Empatica launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo for the creation of a wrist-worn device for monitoring and alerting to grand mal seizures, and help reduce cases of Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy. This device was called Embrace.
In January 2018 Embrace received FDA-clearance for adults and became the first medical wristwatch to be cleared by FDA for use in Epilepsy. In November 2018 an updated version of the Embrace, called Embrace2, was released.
In January 2019, Embrace2 received FDA-clearance for children ages 6 and up.
Empatica is working in partnership with the U.S. Government's BARDA Division of Research, Innovation and Ventures, under the Department of Health and Human Services, to collaborate on the development of a new smart watch which will alert users when they are developing a serious respiratory infection, before any symptoms appear.
Empatica also partnered with Japanese multinational information and network technology company NEC in a health study to help Japanese employees measure their stress levels, as a response to the phenomenon of karoshi.
Empatica is best known to the public for Embrace, a smart watch designed to detect generalized tonic-clonic seizures and alert caregivers in real time via a companion app Alert. The idea for Embrace was born following a discovery developing sensors to monitor stress. Chief Scientist and co-founder Rosalind Picard and her colleagues at the MIT Media lab were initially working on a wristband to help children on the autism spectrum better communicate their emotional states. One of Picard’s undergraduate students borrowed a couple devices to bring home over the winter break and test them on his autistic brother. A spike in activity registered by one of the devices during this time, attributed to a grand mal seizure event, tipped Picard off to the technology’s potential for seizure detection.
Embrace is also used by researchers, pharmaceutical businesses, and other healthcare investigators to collect medical quality data for research. In 2017, Sunovion used Embrace in a phase 4 clinical study of Aptiom, a drug meant to reduce seizures in people with epilepsy. In 2018, results were published showing that data collected by Embrace was useful in examining the nausea felt by passengers undergoing zero-gravity flight.
Alert is a mobile app and subscription service that works with Embrace2 to send out an emergency call and text message to listed caregivers, including their exact GPS location.
Mate is mobile app that displays physiological data collected by the Embrace2. It displays: sleep time, efficiency, fragmentation, and tosses and turns, as well as levels of physical activity and step count. It can also be used as a digital seizure diary.
The Research Portal is a cloud-based software that enables researchers to virtually view and process the raw data collected by Embrace during their studies.
The E4 collects real-time physiological data, which can be used to conduct in-depth analysis and visualization. The device is equipped with a PPG sensor, EDA sensor, 3-axis accelerometer, and Infrared Thermopile. The E4 is used by researchers to measure arousal in individuals within laboratory and/or naturalistic settings to study, for example, stress or other emotions . Studies conducted using the E4 range from testing wearables for predicting substance addition relapses, to measuring the engagement of students in a classroom, to researching predictions in aggressive meltdowns in autism.
In November 2019, Empatica announced EmbracePlus, a research smart watch which is built in partnership with the Translational Research Institute for Space Health, under NASA’s Human Research Program which develops innovative approaches to reduce risks to humans on deep space missions, including NASA’s Journey to Mars.