A wearable set of sensors can tell when you stop moving or thinking and prods you back into activity with a series of unpleasant sensations.
Wearable devices, such as fitness bands, are on the rise — and architect, designer and artist Ling Tan, AKA LingQL, finds this fascinating. Her research involves studying the ethical and lifestyle implications of wearable tech and how they change the wearer's interactions with the world around them.
Reality Mediator is a study on that theme. It consists of a set of wearable devices that strap to the body to sense how active the wearer is. Sensors include muscle sensors for the body, a brain activity sensor in a headband and a GPS to gauge location. These are paired with four types of actuators that will cause unpleasant, disruptive effects when the wearer stops thinking or concentrating, all connected by Arduino micro-controllers and powered by a rechargeable battery.
These are electric shocks that can, for example, disrupt the wearer's ability to use their hands for a brief amount of time, heat pads that can cause uncomfortable levels of heat, an irritating vibration and an unpleasant beeping noise. When the wearer resumes activity, the sensations will cease.
"As coined by Steve Mann, 'Mediated Reality' refers to the artificial modification of human perception by way of devices used to deliberately enhance or alter our senses," Tan told Dezeen. "This project sets off as an experiment to question the effect of Mediated Reality on the user and the user's interaction with the environment."
Tan tested Mediated Reality on herself for an unspecified extended period of time and found that she adapted her behaviours to avoid the unpleasant sensations — raising the question of whether she or the device was in control.
She then packaged the device in consumer-style boxes as a means of questioning the extent to which consumers will accept disruptive and, in Tan's opinion, invasive technologies. "It is also a critique against commercial wearable devices, such as Google Glass, that aim to provide consumers with benefit through the use of branding/marketing strategy and pervasive media that breaks down the dichotomy between transparency of information sharing and human privacy," she said.