Reality Mediators wearable technology
by Ling Tan punishes laziness


These wearable devices by designer Ling Tan cause unpleasant sensations when the wearer becomes inactive or stops concentrating (+ movie).

Reality Mediators wearable technology by Ling Tan

Tan's Reality Mediators project hooks up wearable sensors that detect muscle movements, brainwave activity and GPS location with four different devices that cause discomfort to the body. If the wearer stops moving or has a lull in mental activity for too long they will experience either an electric shock, an unpleasant sound, intense heat or irritating vibration.

Reality Mediators wearable technology by Ling Tan

For example, when the brainwave activity sensors and muscle electrical stimulation armband are worn, electric shocks are emitted when brain activity is low but cease when concentration levels increase. "The muscle electrical stimulation armband has the ability to disrupt the user's daily activities such as typing, writing or holding something in their hand," Tan told Dezeen.

Reality Mediators wearable technology by Ling Tan

"These devices are connected via Arduino micro-controllers, attached to rechargeable battery," she continued. "The whole setup is designed to be portable and wearable so that the user could wear these devices and move around the city."

Reality Mediators wearable technology by Ling Tan

The aim is to make the wearer think about how gadgets for the body like the Nike FuelBand or Google Glass may alter day-to-day activities by changing our perception of the world around us and training us to behave in a certain way.

Reality Mediators wearable technology by Ling Tan

"As coined by [wearable computing researcher and inventor] Steve Mann, 'Mediated Reality' refers to the artificial modification of human perception by way of devices used to deliberately enhance or alter our senses," said Tan. "This project sets off as an experiment to question the effect of Mediated Reality on the user and the user's interaction with the environment."

Reality Mediators wearable technology by Ling Tan

Tan wore configurations of the wearable technology herself to track how the devices affected her daily routine. "The devices were worn on myself for an extended period of time to understand the effect it has on [my] body and how [I] started to navigate and perceive the environment by adapting through the device," she said.

Reality Mediators wearable technology by Ling Tan

She found that the wearer is forced to alter their routines in order to avoid the sensations caused by the devices. "Through prolonged period of wearing, the user's body will start to adapt to the device," said Tan, "this then questions the issue of who is in control; the user or the device?"

Reality Mediators wearable technology by Ling Tan

Tan also designed packaging and branding for the devices so they resemble technology products currently available to purchase.

Reality Mediators wearable technology by Ling Tan

"The design, branding and packaging of the devices are intentionally made to resemble that of consumer-based products, questioning the extent to which consumers can accept such types of invasive technology that seem acceptable on the outlook, but produces disruptive effects on users," the designer explained.

Reality Mediators wearable technology by Ling Tan
Instruction manual illustrating the effect each set of devices provides. Click for larger image

"It is also a critique against commercial wearable devices such as Google Glass that aims to provide consumers with benefit through the use of branding/marketing strategy and pervasive media that breaks down the dichotomy between transparency of information sharing and human privacy," she added.

Reality Mediators wearable technology by Ling Tan
Reality Mediators branding

Tan began her research for this project while studying on The Bartlett Graduate Architectural Design programme at UCL in London.

Reality Mediators wearable technology by Ling Tan
Reality Mediators data sheet
  • James

    Some very interesting ideas here. I would be very interested to see how it would affect my daily life. I would like to see a devise that corrects people’s postures as well.

  • capo

    Great for slave owners. ;)

  • Romain_M

    This really makes me wish my school had a robotics and/or electronics class :(

    This feels like some sort of physical manifestation of Adderall, very 19th century medicine, before the advent of neurochemistry.

    Why isn’t there a reward system ? It would certainly be a greater challenge for designers to encourage good behavior rather than punishing lapses in activity and calling the whole deal a “commentary piece”.

    Finally, the adverse stimulus the devices provide may lead to “learned helplessness”, wherein the user may accept the punishment as fate and sink into depression, especially since the elected behaviuor (arbitrarily chosen I might add) can’t be possibly sustained through long stretches of time.

    Check this out :

  • Douglas Montgomery

    I watched my friend demonstrate a similar concept to our class three years ago as a second year student. His product was an MP3 player that generated a mild electric shock if your pace slowed during jogging. Very cynical, very clever and deservedly received lots of laughs.

  • aaronbbrown

    Sickening. This is nothing less than a torture device. The kind of thing that corporations will be mandating workers wear in the not-too-distant future, to boost the productivity of their drones working 150 hours a week for food money.

    I congratulate the inventor on creating a device that will surely increase pain and suffering worldwide. Perhaps she will come up with the modern equivalent of the iron maiden or the rack, for those who refuse to wear the device.

    The people at Dezeen should really think before they post this. Sheesh!

  • TheNewsIsBroken

    I, for one, will welcome our new Reality Mediator overlords. I mean, what could possibly go wrong once the government funding and oversight kicks in? I’m sure there are practical applications in say… defence and military that could really benefit mankind. [snark]


    Good luck getting someone so lazy that they need this… to actually put it on

  • Sebastián Corral

    Great! I was just wondering how to make my slaves become less “lazy”. Don’t you just hate when it becomes difficult to exploit people?

    This is horrendous in my opinion. An electric shock for not working or thinking hard enough? Really? Oh, really?!!!

  • lm

    It will become the best torture instrument!