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Shocking tech: this wristband electrocutes you into ditching a bad habit

Ranjan Crasta | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:49 IST

Once upon a time, if you had a bad habit, all you needed was some willpower and a basic grasp of discipline. It seems the world has run out of both though, because now we have Pavlok - a company that aims to help you break your bad habits by electrocuting the living bejesus out of you.

A shocking proposition

Maneesh Sethi is a man who apparently had the nous to make it to and through Stanford. Evidently, though, he struggled with overcoming the simpler things like being distracted by Facebook.

So what happens when you combine a premier education with habitual poor life choices? Evidently, more poor life choices - Sethi hired a woman to slap him every time he used Facebook. Sort of the way most people's parents helped them overcome bad habits growing up, just paid.

Maybe it was Sethi's way of finding female company and/or catering to his latent masochism fetish. Regardless, he found the results spectacular. He claims that not only did his productivity quadruple, but the quality of his work did as well.

Also read - What happens when men design tech for women? These 5 utterly daft devices

Unfortunately, Sethi's slapper probably didn't see much of a future in Facebook slapping or perhaps Sethi remembered he had crippling student loans to pay off, because the arrangement ended. In a bid to fill the slap-sized void now threatening to send his life spiralling back into Facebook addiction, Sethi brainstormed for a solution.

A US company wants to help you give up your vices by punishing you with electric shocks

It's unclear how long he spent brainstorming, because his solution was an outdated form of torture - electrocution to be specific. Sethi figured that a device that zapped him with electricity every time he did something 'bad' would cure him of his problem.

Amazingly, the internet agreed. Sethi's IndieGoGo campaign found 1,754 backers, raising US $2,83,802 and allowing Sethi to turn his idea into a wristband that electrocutes users.

Electric avenue

The Pavlok is actually not so much a wristband as a tiny module that fits into one. Like a phone, it can beep and vibrate. And like a really bad phone, it can also shock you. The shocking part is of course the operative element of the Pavlok.

When users behave in any way that they themselves consider negative and would like to give up, they press down on the wrist band, delivering a shock of varying intensity based on their own preference. Over time, according to Sethi and the team at Pavlok, your brain will be reprogrammed to make you stop doing whatever it is you considered 'bad'.

There is a slightly more automatic set-up to help chronic oversleepers. Using the Pavlok phone app, you'll be able to set alarms that shock you into consciousness should you hit the snooze button more than once.

What's more, Pavlok has even come up with a new ShockClock wristband with a motion sensor to continue shocking you until you fling yourself out of bed. It's like everything you already hated about alarm clocks coupled with everything you hated about making toast in the tub. Genius.

We figure the next step for Pavlok will be the WhatABoard Bed - a bed that waterboards you in case you sleep through your alarm. You can have that idea for free Pavlok. 

Using the Pavlok app you can even involve friends, allowing them to zap you from remote locations if you fail to accomplish preset tasks. It sounds amazing. Until you remember that your friends are a$$holes who will shock you regardless, just to bring it up later at the bar. Or shock you at the bar while you're trying to chat someone up and then bring it up later as a joke when you're pondering your nonexistent love life.

Gandhi's monkeys before the Pavlok.

It's classic negative reinforcement. Except this time you're paying $150 to wear a swanky wristband that hurts you. And it's dependent on you. One could argue that the same results could be achieved by sticking your finger in an electric socket every time you were about to give in to a bad habit. And one would be right. One could also argue that users could cheat the device by just not shocking themselves, and one would be right again.

Perhaps that's where the inflated price tag for what is essentially an electronic wristband with poor wiring comes in - reminding users not to cheat because then they just wasted US $150 and there's no smart way to explain that to friends and family.

Also read - We're calling it: the NoPhone is 2015's best-worst tech invention

First published: 25 April 2016, 11:44 IST
Ranjan Crasta @jah_crastafari

The Ranjan (Beardus Horribilis) is a largely land-dwelling herbivorous mammal. Originally from a far more tropical habitat, the Ranjan can now be found wandering the streets of Delhi complaining about the weather, looking for watering holes and foraging for affordable snacks. Mostly human, mostly happy and mostly harmless, the Ranjan is prone to mood swings when deprived of his morning coffee. Having recently migrated to the Catch offices, he now inhabits a shadowy corner and spends his time distracting people and producing video content to distract them further.