In a bid to combat information overload, first came calm technology: smart, streamlined tech that limits notifications and interruptions. Think the Apple Watch (although some believe it’s actually made things worse), or Kovert, the design house that makes unobtrusive wearables.
On top of eliminating external stimuli that might cause anxiety, we’ve now got tech that can physiologically change our mood. The recently launched Thync lets you do this using electrical stimulation by way of a headset. For something a bit less intrusive – and a little more discreet – there’s doppel, a new wristband that uses your body’s innate ability to synchronise with external beats to keep you calm or get your going.
We spoke to the team behind doppel about performance enhancing tech.
Tell us about the wristband.
Doppel harnesses your body’s natural response to rhythm similarly to upbeat or downbeat music, but it’s a pulse you feel on your wrist rather than one you hear. It can be used to keep you going through a really long meeting, help you stay calm during a presentation or wind down at the end of the day.
Could it be used to help people with anxiety disorders?
We’ve had a great response from our testers and know that it can help people stay calm when they are anxious. We haven’t yet been able to test it extensively with people suffering from ongoing anxiety disorders. We do think there’s huge potential in this area so we’re going to trial it properly as soon as we can.
What do we know about how our bodies respond to rhythm?
The interaction between our senses, our vital organs and our brains form a feedback loop inside our bodies, whereby our physical and mental responses impact upon one another. We saw the potential for technology to have an impact on this psychophysiological feedback loop. If you can intervene in it you could either alter someone’s physical response, or alter their awareness of that physical response. You could give them more control over how they feel.
We worked with a leading experimental psychologist and experimented with various stimuli and known effects. We came upon entrainment, a phenomenon by which our own bodily rhythms synchronise with those around us – this is as strong between mothers and their babies as it is for two lovers sat in a room – and discovered that music has a similar effect.
We saw an opportunity to create something that could really provide benefit to people. If we could find a way to deliver a similar effect in a less distracting, more controllable way, we could give people control over themselves on demand.
What’s different about doppel to other wearables?
Unlike other wearables doppel has an active effect on how the user feels. It’s not about monitoring and measuring. It’s about feeling.
Wearables give rise to the possibility for technology to work intrinsically with how the human body works. doppel works with the natural abilities of the body to help us keep going or get calm.
What are your top three rules when designing a new product?
A new product needs to solve a problem, even if it’s only a ‘first world problem’, and have a unique quality or purpose. Ideally, it will also do some good in the world – whether that’s practically, aesthetically or economically – preferably all three.
And it needs, over time at least, to be achievable and affordable. We’ll be launching our Kickstarter campaign on June 16th as part of London Tech Week – it’s the perfect way to test these as our backers will want to see the use, benefit and potential in order to pledge.
What’s the future of wearable tech?
Wearable tech is still in its infancy but there’s definitely a growing market and competition is bound to lead to more and more innovation. Like computers and mobile phones, wearables will gradually become smaller and more efficient, powerful and accurate. The materials we use will get smarter.
It will be interesting to see how the fashion industry responds to wearables. The same goes for interactivity between wearables and home appliances and devices like phones and tablets, perhaps leading to more personalised products. These are all areas we’re monitoring and working on.
Wearables have been struggling to find their unique selling point, the thing they can do for us that no other type of technology can. doppel provides a benefit that can only come from worn technology. We don’t believe the future will be flashing lights and graphs of stats about your day but a softer technology that lives symbiotically with us and helps us to be more of the person we want to be.
Interview by Zara Shirwan. Team Turquoise is made up of Jack Hooper, Fotini Markopoulou, Andreas Bilicki and Nell Bennett. @TTurquoise