Wake up Call: Wearable Device Alerts Users When they are About to Doze Off


University of Pennsylvania has come to the rescue of students who fall asleep during boring lectures. Vigo, a head set designed by three researchers, measures users' attention levels and nudges them when it detects sleepiness, either by vibrating softly in their ear, flashing a blinking light or playing a music track.

With the help of a built-in infrared sensor, a 6-axis accelerometer and an algorithm, the wearable device determines the alertness levels through 20 different parameters including tracking blinking patterns (blink rate and duration) and eye movements (time difference between eyes-closed and eyes-open).

"We are creating a device that is there to make sure you are at your best and alerts you when you are dozing off, like a friend sitting next to you in class or in the passenger seat," Jason Gui, Vigo cofounder and chief technical officer, told Fast Company.

The wearable device looks similar to a simplified Bluetooth headset and weighs around 20 grams. Its battery is estimated to last for 2-3 days. The device works on Bluetooth 4.0 of any iOS or Android device.

The team hopes to ready the device for commercial purposes starting mid-2014 and is expected to cost around $119. The team has initiated a 'kickstarter campaign' for its wearable device.

Apart from assisting students during lectures, Vigo prevents users to fall asleep while driving or at work. An accompanying app suggests certain activities to users (stretch, nap, coffee), when they feel sleepy.

"We don't want to give them a reason to continue driving while drowsy for example," Gui said. "The idea isn't to create a device that acts as a coffee substitute and prevents people from sleeping."

Apart from measuring alertness levels and keeping users awake, Vigo also allows them to take pictures on their phone just by winking, receive text messages through LED light notifications and can control PowerPoint slides by blinking.

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