Nowadays we all really need to try our best to not touch our faces. It’s a society-wide effort in the face of COVID-19. Everyone from politicians and healthcare experts to content creators are warning against, but honestly – virus or no virus we should all be trying to live a more hygienic lifestyle.
Enter Immutouch. This new wristband from Seattle-based tech startup Slightly Robot is designed to vibrate if you touch your face. An accelerometer within the band senses hand movements 10 times per second based on calibrations the Immutouch takes when you set it up. Then when you reach for your face or your hand gets close to your nose, eyes or mouth it buzzes.
It even has an app to help you track your progress as it helps you drop your face-touching habit.
Co-founder of Slightly Robot, Matthew Toles, says that the band was designed and produced to help, even in some small way, stop the spread of you-know-what. He says, “A problem the size of COVID-19 requires everyone to do their part, large or small.” He continues “the three of us happened to be uniquely well equipped to tackle this one task and felt it was our duty to at least try.”
The three he’s referring to include Toles himself and fellow co-founders Joseph Toles and Justin Ith. Their company was funded through a small grant from the University of Washington in 2016 and bootstrapped since.
“We’re not looking to make money on this. We are selling each unit nearly at cost, accounting for cost materials, fabrication, assembly, and handling,” says Ith. The wristband itself retails for $50 each. You can either wear one in your dominant hand to halt your nose-picking or dual-wield the tech to ensure perfect hygiene is made manifest.
Ith’s father suffers from an autoimmune disease and is more vulnerable to the virus than otherwise. The band was built with him in mind. “We built Immutouch because we knew we could do it quickly, therefore we have the obligation to. We all live in Seattle and we see our communities reacting to this outbreak with deep concern and fear,” says Ith. He continues to say that the band is an effort by him and Immutouch to try and keep the communities around his father and family clean and safe.”
Wearable Warning Devices – More common than you think?
Devices such as the Immutouch have been around for a while but for other uses. A study notes that the wearing of devices such as the Immutouch that sends a warning whenever you’re about to do something the watch deems negative is actually quite effective, especially in deterring sufferers of the disease trichotillomania – the urge to rip out their own hair.
The University of Michigan found that the warning vibrations of these devices manage to reduce the long and short-term hair-pulling of sufferers.
These devices aren’t magic though, they require you to try. Ith admits that you have to pay attention to the device in order to form the correct habits – it doesn’t work if you ignore it.
The psychology behind the tech is Pavlovian in nature – it conditions the wearer to associate the buzzing as a negative stimulus. Eventually, the wearer won’t even consider touching their face if the device is able to function as intended.
Tech Crunch suggests that one-day smartwatch manufacturers like Apple could create cheap and free apps that let users train themselves like with the Immutouch through hardware they already own. Until then Ith and the rest of Slightly Robot hope to be able to make the wristband more accessible and reduce the cost. He concludes by saying that people have the responsibility to protect themselves and others from infections.
By Luis Monzon
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