The Future Is Here to Nag You: The Rise of the Nanny Gadget
Are you brushing your teeth properly? Are you eating too fast? Are you slouching?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then perhaps you should consider a trendy new type of gadget that I’m going to call the nanny device. These are devices that nag you about these and your many other personal failures. (No offense.)
These nanny devices seem to have proliferated in the past year. The forthcoming Oral-B smart toothbrush may be “disappointed in your brushing,” as Yahoo Tech reported from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week: The gizmo hooks up to an app and provides “real-time feedback” on your oral hygiene skills, joining a similar smart toothbrush from Kolibree. Last year, the smart HAPIfork attracted a wave of attention with its promise to vibrate if it catches you eating at an unhealthy pace. A company called Lumo offers a belt-like contraption that zings you into straightening your spine and has been pre-selling a clip-on device that similarly prods you to “bring your shoulders back and lift your head.” Sensoria Fitness Socks strive to straighten out your running gait.
If that’s still not enough high-tech mothering for you, you can preorder a more all-purpose system, reportedly due out soon, that promises to let you equip a variety of household objects with sensors, endowing them with the power to pester you to take your vitamins, drink more water and close the refrigerator.
This product is called … Mother.
Mother and its sensors.
Perhaps the future will yet bring traitorous machines we fear, like HAL, or seductive technology we literally fall in love with, as in Her. But what seems to be happening now is an onslaught of technically sophisticated nagging.
It may sound like I’m making fun of nag tech — and, well, yeah, OK, I guess I am. But I may as well just confess: I’ve preordered the newer Lumo device. I have terrible posture, and I can’t quite see myself sitting around with a book balanced on my head at this point in my life. So maybe this device can straighten me up?
In any case, the nanny avalanche is partly a logical result of converging tech trends: the so-called “quantified self” movement, the popularity of various fitness-tracking apps and gadgets, and the future of communicative, WiFi-connected devices promised by the much-ballyhooed Internet of Things (usefully explained by my colleague Dan Tynan here).
The Kolibree toothbrush, which will coach you as you brush.