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This Wearable Tunes Out Your Annoying Boss

In another exclusive concept, Code and Theory shares an idea for a wearable that helps you unplug.

Today, our electronics buzz, blink, and beep. They constantly distract us. And smartwatches haven’t changed this. In fact, they double down on notifications. The connect us more.

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For our Wearables Week, Co.Design asked marketing and design company Code and Theory–responsible for the recent online redesigns of Vogue and the L.A. Times, and freshly equipped with an industrial design team–to draft a concept that looked beyond the smartwatch. And what they created was more than just another wearable: It was actually a sort of anti-wearable. It’s a device to tune out all other distractions; a device that you actually aren’t even supposed to wear that often.

Called Greater Than, it’s a half-rubber, half-aluminum stick. Whenever you find yourself stressed, you take it from your pocket, twist, and place the device over your ear. A built-in EEG sensor measures the electricity coming off your brain. Then a bone-conduction speaker will play back one of several musical loops in response–ambient soundtracks (like this one) that are meant to promote calmer theta rhythm thought, which is the meditative twilight your brain operates in before sleep.

“It’s meant to invoke this moment of indulgence,” explains Code and Theory’s director of Industrial Design, Geoff Baldwin. “That’s why it’s a candybar shape.”

Whether or not you buy into the 1960s science of sound-based theta meditation, Greater Than is still a fascinating concept. For instance, the chassis starts in the shape of candybar, but then it twists along a 45-degree angle to resemble an L-shaped metal protractor. The rubber side is touching your skin, so it’s not uncomfortable. But even still, the industrial design, with its sharp metallic angle isn’t curved in an all-out play for ergonomics either.

“It’s not designed to be worn all day,” Baldwin explains. “We’ve all heard how stupid people look–glassholes, or people who wear bluetooth headsets. There’s this giant stigma with wearing tech. I’m sure there will be some snarky name for people who wear Apple Watches. This is designed to be worn for a short period of time–10, 15, maybe 30 minutes.”

It’s also jarring to see pictures of Greater Than worn on a human head, specifically because it’s intended to signal to others that you’re tuned out. The 90-degree chunk of metal on your ear grates on the human psyche like the once-counterculture piercings of punk fashion. Greater Than doesn’t blink to others, inviting them to inspect your battery gauge or how much longer is left in your mental break. It’s just a cold, uncaring FU to coworkers that says you’ve earned your private time.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach

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