Electronic Products & Technology

Roga’s medtech platform targets mental health

Stephen Law   

Electronics Engineering Wearable Technology Editor Pick healthcare medical neurotech Roga wearables wellness

Non-invasive brain stimulation device reduces anxiety

Aimed at reducing reducing stress, anxiety and burnout in its users, Toronto and LA based neurotech start-up Roga is making brainwaves in the med-tech community with its mental health platform.

Described as a neurotech device, the product offers a science-backed wearable device to reduce brain activity associated with intense stress, paired with an app that provides highly personalized, guided meditations and tracking progress analytics using AI. Voted as one of the ‘World Changing Ideas’ by Fast Company, Roga’s pocket-sized and fashionable form factor allows users to get the help they need wherever they are: at home, at work, or on the go. With the rate of intense stress skyrocketing since the pandemic, Roga is on a mission to provide people with an effective tool to combat stress and improve the quality of their lives.

The Roga device provides small electrical pulses to the peripheral nerve behind the ears, which sends a feedback signal to the brain to reduce brain activity associated with stress. Roga is used once per day for 20 to 60 minutes. Roga users describe feeling more resilient to daily stressors over time. The technology underlying Roga is backed-up by years of neuroscience research. Roga is currently conducting further research at the University of Waterloo with support from MITACS.

Dr. Alison Smith, co-founder and chief scientist at Roga. Source: Roga

Roga was founded by Ami Lebendiker, CEO, former hardware product manager of Google Home and Pixel phones, alongside Dr. Alison Smith, chief scientist, a Ph.D. neuroscientist originally from the University of Waterloo. Combining their respective expertise in AI enabled hardware and neurotechnology, they have been able to create an innovative wearable for effective stress management. For this article, EP&T interviews Toronto-based Dr. Alison Smith.


Q. Can you walk us through the inspiration behind your wearable wellness tech products, particularly focusing on the technological challenges you aimed to address?

Roga emerged from the founders’ deeply personal journey grappling with intense stress and witnessing its toll on those they cherish. Motivated by the quest for relief, and to develop an effective solution beyond just medication or talk therapy, founders Ami Lebendiker and Dr. Alison Smith crafted a science-backed wearable device that is more scalable, cost-effective, discreet yet fashionable than any other wearable device to relieve stress on the market.

Q. In the realm of electronic engineering, what unique design considerations did you encounter when developing your wearable tech, and how did you innovate to overcome them?

Crafting an attractive, high-quality device posed intricate technical challenges. Fitting all the electronics into a pocket-sized brain stimulation wearable while maintaining efficacy and safety demanded precision engineering. In designing our headset, we specifically considered the preferences and lifestyles of younger audiences who suffer the most from stress and burnout. Recognizing that this demographic values discretion and style, we engineered the device to be more concealable and fashionable, ensuring it aligns with their desire for privacy and aesthetics. Balancing the aesthetic look of the device with performance was crucial to promote seamless integration into daily life. The headset is ultra-lightweight and discrete, looking very much like a pair of headphones: a conscious design choice to promote device adoption and usage in public spaces. To increase usability, we transitioned into using soft, flexible materials. The result is a headset that not only delivers effective stress relief but also integrates seamlessly into daily life; when worn, it’s almost invisible to the casual observer. This design idea ensures that users feel comfortable and confident and makes mental wellness support as accessible as possible.

Source: Roga

Q. How do you balance the integration of cutting-edge technology with user-centric design principles in your wearable wellness products?

Continuous feedback loops and usability testing guide us to harmonize innovation with user needs, creating products that seamlessly enhance well-being. We meticulously integrate advanced features while prioritizing user experience, ensuring intuitive interfaces and comfortable wearability. For example, based on user feedback, we developed an app that provides highly personalized, AI-generated guided meditations based on user inputs, alongside tracking progress analytics. Our early customers communicated their desire to listen to relaxing content while using the Roga device and tracking their progress over time. We are continually integrating cutting-edge technology based on user feedback.

Q. Can you discuss any specific engineering breakthroughs or advancements that have contributed to the effectiveness and usability of your creations?

We’ve made significant investments in the development of AI-driven data analysis and content creation. Using multistage Large Language Models, we can create personalized and useful content for the user, broadening our reach and enhancing user engagement. The content engine we offer in the Roga App adapts to the specific needs and progress of the user, providing targeted mental health support when it’s needed. We’ve been training our datasets to refine and optimize the AI’s responsiveness, ensuring that the content remains relevant to the user.

Source: Roga

Q. What role does user feedback play in the iterative design process of your wearable tech, especially considering the intersection of technology and wellness?

User feedback is pivotal in shaping the iterative design process of our wearable tech. It guides us to refine features, optimize usability, and enhance overall effectiveness. By actively engaging with our device and the Roga AI, users contribute valuable insights that enable us to fine-tune their experience. This ongoing chat dialogue ensures that our product truly supports and resonates with our customers’ well-being journeys, making each iteration more effective and user-centric than the last.

Q. How do you ensure that your wearable wellness devices are both aesthetically pleasing and technically proficient, catering to the preferences of diverse users?

Ensuring our wearable wellness devices blend aesthetics with technical prowess involves a multifaceted approach. Our most engaged user demographic is between the ages of 18-38 years old; we regularly reach out to them through surveys, focus groups, and user testing to understand preferences deeply. Collaborating with designers and engineers, we craft sleek, versatile designs without compromising functionality. Iterative prototyping allows us to refine form factors while integrating cutting-edge technology seamlessly. User-centric design principles guide every decision, ensuring our devices resonate visually and functionally across a spectrum of tastes and needs. For example, Roga comes in three different colours: sky blue, rose gold, and charcoal with more to come. We pride ourselves on creating wearable wellness solutions that not only delight the eye but also empower users on their well-being journeys, regardless of their unique preferences.

Source: Roga

Q. Could you elaborate on any collaborations or partnerships with electronic engineers or designers that have been pivotal in the development of your products?

All our designs and electronic development has been done in-house. We have assembled a stellar team of electrical and industrial engineers who collaborate closely to drive the innovation and functionality of the wearable. This team is crucial in transforming complex technologies into user-friendly products. Additionally, our designers play a pivotal role, ensuring that each device is not only visually appealing but also ergonomic, enhancing the overall user experience.

Q. What measures do you take to address concerns regarding data privacy and security in your wearable tech, given the sensitive nature of health-related data? 

We prioritize data privacy and security in both firmware and software. This includes end-to-end encryption to safeguard health-related data during transmission and storage. We adhere strictly to industry standards and regulations like HIPAA. Transparent privacy policies ensure users understand how their data is collected, used, and protected. Regular security audits and updates fortify our systems against emerging threats.

Q. With the rapid evolution of wearable technology, how do you stay ahead of the curve in terms of innovation and staying relevant in the market? 

It requires relentless innovation and market foresight. We have ongoing investments in research and development of new emerging technologies. We are constantly focused on improving the efficacy of our solutions. Close collaborations with industry experts and academic partners facilitate access to cutting-edge insights and resources. Agile development processes allow us to swiftly iterate and adapt to changing market demands. Additionally, we actively engage with our user community, soliciting feedback to inform our roadmap and ensure our products remain relevant and impactful. By embracing innovation, agility, and user-centricity, we continuously strive to lead the way in wearable wellness technology.

Source: Roga

Q. Can you share insights into the materials and components used in your wearable wellness products, emphasizing durability, comfort, and functionality?

We try to only use premium materials and components to prioritize durability, comfort, and functionality. Soft, hypoallergenic silicone ensures comfort during extended wear. Each component undergoes rigorous testing to ensure reliability, risk management, and performance under various conditions. By combining quality materials with cutting-edge technology, we deliver wearable wellness solutions that seamlessly integrate into users’ lifestyles, empowering them to prioritize their well-being with confidence.

Q. How do you envision the future of wearable wellness tech evolving, and what role do you see your company playing in shaping that future? 

The future of wearable wellness tech holds exciting possibilities, with advancements poised to revolutionize how we monitor and enhance our well-being. We foresee greater integration of AI and machine learning, enabling personalized insights and interventions. Wearables may evolve beyond passive tracking to actively modulating physiological states, such as stress reduction or mood enhancement. Our company is committed to driving this evolution by pioneering innovative solutions that empower users to proactively manage their health. Through continued research, collaboration, and user-centric design, we aim to shape a future where wearable wellness tech becomes indispensable in fostering holistic well-being for individuals worldwide.

Q. As a Toronto-based creator, how does the local tech and design ecosystem influence your work, and what advantages or challenges does it present in comparison to other global tech hubs?

As a Toronto-based creator, the local tech and design ecosystem serve as both a source of inspiration and a platform for collaboration. The city’s rich cultural diversity fosters unique perspectives, driving innovation in our work. Collaborating with local talent and startups amplifies our creative endeavours, while access to global networks enhances our reach. Challenges include fierce competition for talent and funding, yet Toronto’s supportive community and burgeoning tech scene provide a solid foundation for our company’s growth and influence in shaping the future of wearable wellness tech.





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