/By Alan Gallindoss/
The BioHug Vest is a wearable, effective and non-restraining stress relief solution. The BioHug Vest was developed by an engineer who is also father to a son with autism, in cooperation with medical experts in the field of treating autism.
The company behind it BioHug Technologies has a dedicated, and interdisciplinary, team that created the product and is now refining it and developing it for additional markets. Clinical testing has shown the BioHug Vest to be an effective means of lowering the stress levels of people both with and even without autism. Introduced in 2012, today it has found acceptance in a wide range of clinical situations.
The act of hugging is not only an expression of affection, but can also be wonderful for the relief of stress; this is a basic feature of the human condition. Unfortunately though, for many people who are autistic, human touch is frequently hard to bear at all.
That is why BioHug Technologies came up with the idea of a vest that can hug people with conditions such as autism, attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity, and anxiety. This provides the same effect as human hugging, but without the human connection that sufferers with autism may find difficult to deal with.
Raphael Rembrand, an engineer and the father of an autistic son himself, was the brain behind the idea. The vest was a byproduct of Rembrand’s other research into the mechanisms of autism, and his vision to create something that can be calming yet does not require medication.
Andrew Schiffmiller is the CEO of BioHug Technologies, and he tells the technology blog NoCamels in an interview: “Any kind of physiological relaxation eases blood pressure, respiration, and stress as well.” The BioHug vest applies compression to different areas of the back and shoulders, helping users to relax.
Technically the BioHug product works by combining a lightweight air compressor, a really small computer, and tiny valves that feed compressed air bubbles beneath the lining of the cotton fabric of the vest. Unlike other deep pressure devices that use constant pressure, the location and duration of pressure is constantly varied, so the effect lasts longer. Schiffmiller explains that the problem with constant pressure is that the human body stops paying attention to it after a while.
The BioHug vest also works automatically and needs no manual pumping or other human intervention. It even comes with its own rechargeable battery that lasts up to four hours. Since its launch, the vest has been used in special schools in Israel and the US, and by occupational therapists in the UK and Canada. Individuals have also given many positive testimonials in product feedback enquiries.
Relieving stress is one thing, however it does not lessen the need to remove the original source of the stress itself or it will simply come back again later.
The initial product has been designed basically for adults, i.e. people aged 18 and above, and BioHug is now looking to make models for younger children, in much smaller sizes, and using lighter materials.
In addition, clinical trials have been ongoing at Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center for patients with chronic pain, to see if reduction in stress levels can lead to reduced perceptions of the pain.
Another area where systematic testing is being done is post-trauma. After the November 2012 rocket attacks in southern Israel, BioHug teamed up with OneFamily, which helps victims of terror, to use the vest as a calming intervention for those suffering post-traumatic stress symptoms.
BioHug’s future plans include taking the vest to a broader market. The vest is now in a market that is somewhere between medical and healthcare, and manufacturing in only very small quantities makes it expensive. BioHug is still figuring out the right price to open up to a broader market, as it observes how the market reacts to the product. “The more people we help – the cheaper it will get” Schiffmiller says. And this is clearly BioHugs goal.