In order to promote long-term European cooperation and research on health and wellbeing, Fraunhofer, Inria and Philips have created a joint virtual research laboratory: the Lifestyle Research Association (LIRA).
26 January 2012 – Achieving health and wellbeing is about finding the right physical and mental balance in today’s hectic life. Getting enough activity, proper nutrition and sufficient sleep and keeping stress levels under control all have a critical impact on the way we feel. What’s more, our appearance also plays a vital role in our wellbeing, as it increases self-confidence in today’s demanding society.
At the end of October 2011, representatives of the three institutions signed the cooperation agreement at the Fraunhofer IGD in Darmstadt (Germany). LIRA is a 10-year European research partnership set up to perform joint research that addresses the health and wellbeing issues people face today. Its members are Philips Research in the Netherlands, INRIA, the French research institute for computer science and automation, and Fraunhofer, Europe’s largest organization for application-oriented research. These organizations already have a history of cooperation, having worked together on another long-term initiative called Ambient Intelligence Research and Development (AIR&D).
“I’m happy that, once again, we are joining forces to create meaningful innovation that will promote people’s wellbeing,” says Fred Boekhorst, Senior Vice President of Philips Research. “Initially, we’ll focus on cooperation in skincare, dermatology and sleep, adding more wellbeing topics as we continue – for example, in the area of stress management.”
Skincare: defining your appearance
Our skin is not only a protective shell and our bodies’ largest organ – it also defines our appearance and is an important part of the impression we make on others. Our desire to control the appearance of our skin gets stronger when imperfections arise or signs of ageing become visible. Although some technologies for skin treatment have already been developed, there is a growing need for more tools to characterize skin condition and treatment effects, both on a physiological level and on an appearance level. LIRA offers an ideal platform to address these challenges, as it combines expertise on treatment technologies, characterization methods, and skin models.
A healthy night’s sleep
Sleep is an essential part of a healthy life, but many people – especially as they get older – have trouble getting enough uninterrupted sleep. There is much still to be learned about how we can fall asleep, stay asleep and wake up in a healthy way, and this is a promising area of research for LIRA. “We would like to create an interactive environment that will help us make people’s lives easier,” explains Professor Dieter W. Fellner, Director of Fraunhofer IGD. The aim of this project is to define environmental and physiological features that impact the quality of sleeping oth during the sleep and during the day. So, special sensors installed in a mobile phone or bed can analyze activities, stress patterns and sleep sequences and provide ideas for new strategies and, eventually, products that support a healthier night’s sleep.
Studies show that the relationships between emotions and rational thought are deeply complex. In fact, many of our daily activities are shaped by our subconscious minds. Persistent stress, in particular, can wreak havoc on our lives, affecting how we feel and act in every situation. LIRA aims to study such effects and to find ways to relieve people’s stress – enabling them to lead healthier lives. “If people learn to be aware of stress, they can take better control of their daily lives, which in turn can enhance their vitality. This is what we would like to contribute to in our joint research projects,” says Jean-Pierre Banâtre, Director of European Partnerships at INRIA.
Overall, the LIRA project will manage to find ways to improve the welfare of everyday life (at home and at work) and to help people to act on nuisances related disorders sleep, stress management or care of the skin.