Having trouble concentrating on your work? Maybe you need one of these masochistic, laziness-punishing devices. If you stop focusing, you’ll hear an unpleasant sound or feel intense heat, or maybe an annoying buzz and even an electric shock.
Or maybe not. The devices, thankfully, aren’t actually on the market, although technically they are possible to make using readily-available electronic parts. London designer Ling Tan wanted people to start thinking a little more critically about the proliferation of self-tracking devices that measure everything from how much we sleep to how many steps we take a day.
“I wanted to highlight the potential invasiveness of wearable technology and its long-term effect on the user,” Tan says.
She designed 12 different sets of portable, wearable feedback devices, and wore each herself for three to four hours to test them out. Her brain-reading device, intended to help someone stay constantly alert while they’re at work, showed her exactly how hard it is to concentrate.
“You can never fully control your brain activity, in this case, your attention level,” Tan says. “You can definitely focus your attention on something or an object for a few seconds or minutes, but the moment you start thinking about other stuff in your mind, your attention level will vary or fluctuate.”
Since it can’t actually read your mind, the device also can’t tell whether you’re focusing on your job or just intently reading Facebook. So it might not be useful for your boss in its current iteration.
Not all of Tan’s designs seem quite as masochistic as the laziness monitor. Some use sensation in different ways–for example, a navigational device might point users in the right direction by heating up your left or right arm to guide a person as they are walking or biking through a city.
“Right now, most of the consumer devices capitalize only on the user’s visual ability to understand information as compared to other body senses,” Tan says. “This project informs the immense potential and possibility of employing other body sense to effectively change a person’s behavior over time.”
While it’s arguable whether or not devices that can physically nudge you in the right direction would be practical, Tan’s bigger question about self-tracking gadgets is even more interesting: Who’s in control, you or the wristband?