In today’s age of ubiquitous advertising, we are constantly bombarded by bits of information vying for our attention. The “noise” of our environment has reached a fever pitch for almost all of our senses. We believe that combining this filtering process with technology in a human-machine symbiotic intervention can help augment our ability to focus - and, in turn, help us kick the bad habit of constantly diverting our attention to technology. Our intervention is an eyewear that is designed to block the user’s view whenever he or she is distracted by mobile phones. The eyewear recognizes when the user looks at the mobile phone screens and actively shuts the eyewear lenses.
The concept of a device that enforces concentration by isolating surrounding sensory noise was creatively applied in Hugo Gernsback’s The Isolator. This multimodal work from 1925 involved both hearing and vision, as it rendered the user deaf and restricted vision to tiny apertures. Oxygen is piped in via tube.
The diagram for the system is simple. The decision of what to filter (in this case, cell phones) is offloaded to a CPU. A webcam captures what the user is seeing; that information is passed to the CPU, which determines whether or not a cell phone is present; and this ON/OFF decision is sent via Arduino to two servo motors that raise and lower lenses at the front of the armature. The device is thus a filtering interface that recognizes distractions and blocks the user from diverting their attention away from object of focus.
We provided a provocation-of-concept in the form of eyewear that transforms to publicly block the wearer’s vision when he or she looks at a phone. This project is part of a larger vision: by cognitively offloading our filtering ability to machines, we can actively tune out what we consider to be “noise” in our lives, and enjoy the augmented quiet that results.