Ideas for Gadgets That Completely Undermine Themselves
On the tech/innovation site FastCoExist, a reviewer trying out a new device that is meant to help you focus reported on the device’s response as she became immersed in her work: “ ‘You’re getting in the zone,’ the app tells me.”
OK, cool. But, uh, wouldn’t getting a message that you’re “in the zone” kind of distract you from “the zone”? In other words, doesn’t the whole idea of an app telling you that you are focused actually undermine your focus?
One might think so. But maybe that’s a small-minded response. Maybe the real epiphany here is that there are many ways that technology can prompt, prod, and reward us for our successful efforts to avoid distraction, to focus, and to be mindful and relaxed. Maybe there are more opportunities for technology to insert itself into our lives when we have freed ourselves from technology.
A few possibilities:
Have trouble falling asleep? How about a gizmo that monitors your bodily state as you attempt to catch your forty winks: When it detects that you are just about to fall asleep, it tells you — by way of a customizable reward sound blasted out by your phone. The more times you almost fall asleep, the more reward sounds you get, along with digital trophies that illuminate your phone. Sleep: gamified!
Overly attached to checking your phone? Lots of us are — whether you’re a parent striving to spend 15 minutes with your children without checking the tiny screen, or you’re just trying to make it through dinner with friends without monitoring the “likes” on your latest Instagram masterpiece. Maybe what you need is an insistent series of alerts that reward you for not looking at your gizmo.
Consider, for instance, an app that keeps track of your phone’s idle moments. If you haven’t touched it for 10 minutes, you’ll get a prompt congratulating you for your achievement. Then you just have to tap your phone to log in and register this accomplishment. You’ll get a custom digital badge (“Phone Ignorer”), automatically tweeted to your followers. Thus your social network will know what a great job you are doing being unplugged!
Looking for a quiet place to get away from it all? You need an app that responds to ambient noise: If it detects what amounts to silence, it alerts you to the quiet-ness of your environment by way of a persistent buzz, gradually ascending in volume.
Worried about bothering everyone else? With geolocation technology, it should be relatively easy to devise an app that detects when you’re entering, say, a library, or even a funeral home, or any place that really demands respectful silence. You don’t want your Bon Jovi ringtone to interrupt that! So when this app detects that you’re in such a place, it emits a piercing siren, ensuring that you remember to mute your device.
Weary of pointless text messages? We all are. So here’s a new service that could be added to any chat platform: If it’s been half an hour since anybody bugged you with an irritating yet insistent message … you’ll get a message! Something along these lines: “Awesome news: Nobody has distracted you with a text lately. Bet u r in the zone!”
Trying to overcome email overload? Suppose you reach that mythical land of “Inbox Zero,” actually clearing your entire inbox. That’s an achievement that deserves recognition! This service, upon detecting your empty inbox, will immediately send you a congratulatory email, and a note to everyone in your address book, encouraging your friends to do the same.