Energy gauges are useful. They tell you when your phone is close to calling it quits, when you need to immediately save in order to avoid losing progress on your laptop, and how far your car can get you before you need to fuel it up. But the truth is, we humans get tired too– and until your boss, friend, or professor are shaking you awake with an acidic “Sorry, am I boring you?” you might not realize you’ve hit your energy and attention’s limit. Wouldn’t it be easier and more productive if you had your own energy gauge too?
That was the idea that inspired Jason Gui, Drew Karabinos, and Jonathan Kern, three students from the University of Pennsylvania who noticed that while studying, learning, driving, or working, they and their peers would become tired and unfocused at moments where it was heavily inconvenient and interrupted their ability to do their best work. They decided to build Vigo, a cool new gadget that can quantify and track alertness over time, “nudge” you back into alertness with light, vibration, or sound, and give you suggestions on how to improve your energy levels so that you’re at your best and most alert exactly when you need to be. Through the HAXLR8R, a hardware acceleration program dedicated to helping develop new technology, they spent three months between Shenzhen, China and San Francisco perfecting the Vigo headset and, as of three days ago, the team was able to successfully complete their Kickstarter campaign to fund Vigo, raising over $57,000 dollars.
Vigo works by tracking the physiological telltale signs of inattention and drowsiness– blink rate and length, microsleeps, and unfocused eyes, as some examples– and mapping out a visual of what your energy output looks like over a regular day. Using a connected phone app, it can show you when you’re at your most alert, and at what times of the day or after what activities you’re most likely to drowse off or be functioning at less than your best. Not only that, it can also suggest when you should take a break, grab a coffee, eat a snack, or catch a catnap if you want to get your energy back up. It will tell you if you’re sitting still for too long and should get up and stretch. It lets you see when you’re most focused so that you can arrange your day to synch up your most important tasks with the times you need to be at your most attentive.
Of course, it’s physically impossible to be completely focused for all 16 (or more) of your daily waking hours. For the tasks that you can’t avoid even when your energy is low, Vigo helps you stay alert with its easily customized “nudge” system. You can choose both under what circumstances Vigo will nudge you and how you want the nudge to be delivered. Would you like Vigo to nudge you when you’re dosing off? Or when you’ve been physically inactive for too long? The nudge can be set as a gentle vibration to help invigorate you with a physical stimuli, a flashing LED light for visually reminding you to pay attention, or– to really get you pumped up– you can set Vigo to start blasting your favorite high-energy jam for an audial buzz. Whatever way fits you and your situation best, Vigo is there to keep you awake and focused!
Vigo is a working Bluetooth headset as well, which means that, besides working as your personal energy gauge, it can still be used for making and taking telephone calls like a normal headset. The current Vigo headset that was given out with the Kickstarter is built with a sleek, futuristic design that looks like either secret-ops communication spy gear or like something Uhura would use in the rebooted Star Trek films, depending on whether you get it in black or white. Each headset includes an infrared sensor used to track your eye movement (the physiological evidence of alertness), a Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy Chip for communication with your phone, an accelerometer and gyroscope for tracking more physiological symptoms of exhaustion, an LED light and vibrator for “nudging,” and a rechargeable lithium battery that can keep your Vigo going for up to three days between charges– and it only weighs twenty grams! The headset can also be worn on either ear, and with most glasses.
Though the Kickstarter is over, it’s still possible to pre-order a headset (which has an expected retail price of $119) for only $79 on the project’s website, WearVigo. It will work with both Android and iOS when it begins shipping worldwide in May, on any phones capable of Bluetooth 4.0. For those interested in Vigo’s ability to quantify energy levels, the Vigo team also released a Software Development Kit in the Kickstarter and is excited to work with other developers to invent even more creative and useful ways Vigo can help its customers.
Could you use a reminder to wake up now and then? Do you already use apps to monitor your energy that might work well in tandem with Vigo? Let us know how you keep yourself alert in the comments!