THE SCENE: It’s the morning after a night out with the girls. Things started pretty calmly with wine but progressed to tequila when you ran into your ex-boyfriend and his new lover. It’s slightly hazy how you even got home and incredibly likely that you won’t be moving anytime soon, besides picking up your fingers to text everyone.
The text: “Ugh! Why did I drink so much!?”
Consuming alcohol has a funny way of straddling the line between being the gateway to awesome times and turning into a total trickster. The line is very, very fine, and all too often, you cross it without even realizing it until it’s much too late. The act of drinking can sometimes lead to thinking that you need to drink more… funny how that happens, and funny how often we repeat the experience fully knowing how highly regrettable it is. Why don’t we learn our lessons?
A new device called Vive is hoping to put an end to the excess of booze-fueled hoopla. An entry that took the prize for “Best Product Concept” at the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit – Design Exp 2014, the solution that University of Washington students envisioned to this problem comes in the form of a “smart wearable [AKA bracelet] with integrated sensors that monitor the wearer’s biometrics related to alcohol levels,” according to Dan Doan, one of the members of the design team. When a questionable amount of intoxication has been reached, the bracelet connects to an app through Bluetooth and sends alerts to the user’s friends’ phones via social media platforms… very much like the bar version of a smoke signal in the woods. It even allows users to add each other as “friends” on the app when two bracelets are tapped together.
The bracelet will also buzz throughout the night to communicate with its wearer, and if the wearer squeezes it in response to the alert, it will take that as a signal that everything is peachy-schnapps, and to expect a higher alcohol level to come its way. If the user fails to respond to any of the increasing number of “check-ins” the bracelet will send as levels of intoxication rise, however, that’s when friends get involved. The individuals behind the concept claim that the idea was inspired by their desire to combat alcohol-fueled sexual assaults on college campuses, “to intervene in these risky, alcohol-fueled social situations to reduce the occurrence of sexual assault and keep young people safe, without killing the fun, and while actually enhancing it,” continues Dan Doan on Vive’s project site.
There is a great space in the market for something simple that could ultimately cut down on hangovers and regrettable drunk texts, but we have to ask is this the way to do it? For one thing, the bracelet isn’t exactly aesthetically-pleasing so good luck getting a lot of people to go anywhere near it. For another thing, squeezing the bracelet back seems like a pretty simple way to shut it down. By the time you wouldn’t be coherent enough to squeeze your own wrist, it seems like there would be some other signals that you’d had enough to drink, like perhaps crying on the bathroom floor or already home sleeping it off with pizza on your pillow. Will it post statuses to your Facebook and Twitter accounts, alerting all your friends and followers that you’re too drunk to function and that you could use a hand? Probably not something you’d want dear old Grandma to see, right?
And perhaps the most important problem with this concept? While it could be a welcome tool in the fight against sexual assault, it’s still only a Band-aid that covers, not a solution that cures, this major problem that plagues our college campuses and our society at large. Shouldn’t we be focusing our efforts on targeting the root issues that compel these kinds of behaviors, instead of just finding ways to deal with the consequences?
The Vive smart bracelet is still in the prototype stage, i.e. one hasn’t even been developed yet, so perhaps these questionable features will become a little more refined as the process goes along. And if they do, we can at the very least say goodbye to our habit of staying out two hours too late and waking up with a regret-filled, raging headache. Judging by how long it usually takes to apply for grants and create prototypes in general, though, we might be waiting for a while.
Hopefully by that point, we won’t even need the Vive bracelet.
Image Credit: Dan Doan/Vive