BfB Labs is a social business built by Shift to provide accessible preventative mental health products for young people.

Harnessing data from wearable sensors, BfB Labs biofeedback games motivates players to stay calm under pressure, by linking their performance and progress to the variability of their heart rate. Through regular play, this fosters habits of self-control through diaphragmatic regulated breathing and builds emotional resilience, improving wellbeing and helping prevent mental health problems.

The business has a dedicated team and growing group of impact investors working together to generate social and financial returns in the long-term.

The need

“We need healthy, creative and resilient children who know how to maintain wellbeing and can manage stress, judge risks and embrace failure as part of the learning process. It’s essential that we find ways of engaging young people with their technologies in order to do this.”

Charlotte Berry, Deputy Head Teacher, The Billericay School

Half of common mental health disorders in the UK start by the age of 14 and ultimately affect 1 in 4 people at some point in their lives. By teaching young people the skills to regulate their emotions, you can increase their well-being which protects against the development of mental health problems.

Proven methods for managing emotional responses do exist, using simple behaviours such as regulated breathing. However, there are almost no effective, widely available, non-stigmatised interventions to help young people learn these habits.


“A game like this would be benefitting you. If you’re losing and you get angry then you might smash something, but if it measures your heart rate then at least you know you’ve got to cool down.”

Student, 14

We undertook a year of research and consultation in 2013/14, drawing on a range of experts in fields as diverse as psychology, youth work and video game design.In the same year, we worked with a strong set of research and development partners to create a simple proof of concept that helps us see the HRV game mechanic in action and test its effect on wellbeing, through a pilot at Billericay School in Essex in autumn 2014 with 60 12-13 year olds. Evaluation of this initial trial showed that it:

“Games tap into the most fundamental ways we learn and feel. They are an incredible way of reaching out to young people regardless of nationality and background – and, in as urgent and universal a field as mental health, I’m proud to be involved in something that promises to equip countless players with a proven tool for transforming their own health and resilience.”

Tom Chatfield, Technology Theorist

  • Drove compliance with the correct breathing technique
  • Encouraged repeated practice of these techniques
  • Taught players emotional regulation techniques that they transferred out of the game context
  • Was a fun and enjoyable experience for players.


Using these findings and with further support from the Nominet Trust and, the BfB Labs team is developing a market ready game and planning a clinical trial in early 2016. The game and an accompanying wearable sensor will be launched in spring 2016 through a crowdfunding campaign.




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Harnessing the power of games to improve wellbeing

March 18, 2015

An evaluation report describing the results of the first test of Shift’s biofeedback video game, which uses the player’s heart rate to reward players for staying calm under pressure.
Kathleen Collett and Naomi Stoll



video games and wellbeing

Video games and wellbeing

March 1, 2014

Exploring the role and impact of video games in young people’s lives, and how video games and biofeedback can be combined in wellbeing interventions.
Kathleen Collett and Naomi Stoll

promotoing wellbeing

Promoting wellbeing: A practical way to improve public mental health

February 2, 2014

Outlining the scale and impact of mental health, who is most at risk, and the argument for focusing on wellbeing
Kathleen Collett


survey products wellbeing

Survey of products and services which promote wellbeing

February 1, 2014

Evidence for interventions to improve wellbeing (mindfulness, gratitudes, awe and optimism) and examples of products and services which facilitate these.
Kathleen Collett and Tayo Medupin


Technology and Behaviour Change

Recently, hundreds of people gathered in London for a Tech for Good meet up to discuss how new technology and products can change behaviour.

How do these products and services work? Can they really encourage people to ‘be better’ long-term or do you need to change the system and society in other ways? ‘Who’ decides what’s better anyway? And when does behaviour change become coercion or something more controlling?

Tech for Good TV explore this in their latest podcast, featuring our Research and Evaluation Director Kathleen Collett, supported by Bethnal Green Ventures and Nominet Trust



playlabA development studio which specialises in games that produce measurable positive changes. Playlab London is our game development partner and they have led the design, development, animation and analytics of the game.


c2vAn international research agency with specialisms in gaming and digital research. 2CV have been involved in game testing and evaluation, bringing the rigorous games research used by larger game manufacturers to the project.


CCA leadership development consultancy which specialises in applying research in neuroscience, physiology and psychology to improve performance in both business and sport. They have brought medical expertise and knowledge of data analytics to the partnership.


Tom Chatfield ­ - Writer and commentator on digital culture, Tom also creates and designs content for games, apps and interactive media. He has advised the project team during both the research and development stages of the project.

Billericay School, Essex - ­ The initial prototype of the video game is being tested with 60 13 year olds at the Billericay School over a six week period

Supported by

NT      google       nesta


googleimpactFinalist in Google Impact Challenge run by and Nesta to support UK charities using technology to tackle problems and transform lives around the world.

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