Got a bad habit you want to kick?
A vice you just can’t shake?
Forget flimsy New Year’s resolutions… just give yourself a short, sharp shock to zap some discipline into you.
While wristbands like Fitbit and the Nike (NKE) FuelBand track your health and fitness while on the go, a Boston startup called Pavlok has created one that’s a bit more… er… “proactive” in getting you to kick bad habits.
It does so by delivering a mild electric shock.
Believe it or not, there’s a method in the apparent madness here…
Zap the Neurons… Stop the Craving
Rather than being a sadistic form of punishment for those lacking willpower, the Pavlok team say its wristband is based on science.
Specifically, the shock delivers a negative stimulus that interrupts the neural patterns that make up our bad habits.
It works, too.
Chris Schelzi, Pavlok’s Director of Marketing, reveals, “We found that it’s super-effective and even more so in some cases than we thought it was going to be. And so we were testing different cases to see if it would work doing this. Would it work for smoking, or biting your nails, or stopping drinking beer, or having negative depressive thought patterns? We found that it’s very successful in all of those areas.”
Justus Eapen testifies to that. He wanted to break his daily post-work beer-drinking habit, so he started wearing the wristband to see if he could shock himself into sobriety.
“Every day for five days, I would go to the keg, I would fill up a beer, and I would shock myself. And then I would take it back and sip on it, and every time I took a sip, I would shock myself. So this sucked really bad at first.”
Indeed, it “sucked” for the first several days. But after two weeks of self-administered “shock therapy,” Eapen lost his craving for a post-work bevvie. In fact, he hasn’t had one in four months.
But is this novel form of shock therapy safe?
Well, yes. It would be a non-starter if it weren’t. The device can deliver a short shock of up to 350 volts, but can be reduced if needed.
The only trouble is, for preventing everyday bad habits like smoking and drinking, the wearer must activate the wristband himself in order to administer the shock.
On the face of it, this seems to defeat the purpose of the device. After all, the user could just decide not to and light up a cigarette or knock back a beer anyway!
However, this is currently a prototype and Pavlok is working to “automate the shock.” Using Bluetooth and the cloud, a user could program the wristband to do it job automatically.
Schlezi says, “Whether it’s too much Facebook, Netflix, YouTube, or porn sites, whatever it is… we have a chrome extension, so you can plug in your blacklisted sites. Whatever sites you don’t want to go to, you type it in and then every time that page loads, you get automatically shocked.”
Of course, if you really do want to surf Facebook, or catch a movie on Netflix, you’d have to take the wristband off, so you don’t get shocked!
With the drawbacks in mind, I’m skeptical as to whether this will actually take off as a serious habit-breaking, self-help device. But apparently, I’m in the minority. Pavlok has enjoyed enormous crowdfunding success, raking in over $250,000.
With that money in hand, the Pavlok team plans to use it to develop and improve the design of the device before mass-producing it for the market within the next few years.
I’m reminded of Sean Connery’s famous pun as James Bond at the start of Goldfinger, where he tosses the electric fan into the bath and electrocutes the bad guy: “Positively shocking!”