A Device That Knows When You’re Dozing Off And Nudges You Awake

Blink analytics? Yes, one device analyzes blinking patterns to quantify drowsiness.

Admit it: Whether you have a screaming newborn or had a late night at the bar, there are moments when you’re prone to yawning and stretching at work. One device claims it can identify patterns in a person’s blinking to quantify alertness, and it has taken to Kickstarter to help bring its energy gauge into production.


Worn on the ear and across one’s face, Vigo uses infrared sensors to detect signs of drowsiness and then “nudge” the wearer to wake them up. In addition to a built-in accelerometer that analyzes head motion and idleness, the algorithm takes into account blink data, include blink rate, blink duration, ratio of time an eye is open versus closed, and more. When it notices the wearer is getting drowsy, it has a few methods to wake a user up: It can flash LEDs at the end that sit in front of the eye, send a soft pulsing vibration at the ear, or play music.

“We are creating a device that is there to make sure you are at your best and alerts you when you are dozing off, like a friend sitting next to you in class or in the passenger seat,” Jason Gui, Vigo cofounder and chief technical officer, told Fast Company.

Staying awake for long hours when your body wants to sleep isn’t particularly healthy, and Gui knows this. “We don’t want to give them a reason to continue driving while drowsy for example,” he says. “The idea isn’t to create a device that acts as a coffee substitute and prevents people from sleeping.”

Perhaps the most useful part of Vigo is the app that accompanies it, which aims to give wearers suggestions for better routines (like when to take coffee breaks or naps) so they can focus on work during their most productive hours.

Vigo originated as a school project for three University of Pennsylvania students. As one of the startups incubated by the HAXLR8R hardware accelerator, the team spent four months in Shenzhen, China prototyping the device and refining the electronics, algorithm, and data collection. Currently, the components are roughly the size of a flash drive, but the hope is to shrink the components so Vigo’s technology can be integrated into sunglasses, safety goggles, or helmets. “The device contains Bluetooth Low Energy connectivity, and we are creating an API, which opens up the opportunity of connecting it to other systems, such as phones or cars for further capability,” said Gui, hinting at the ability to slow down a car or call a friend when the device detects drowsiness.

About the author

Based in San Francisco, Alice Truong is Fast Company's West Coast correspondent. She previously reported in Chicago, Washington D.C., New York and most recently Hong Kong, where she (left her heart and) worked as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.