Raise your hand if you’ve ever been drunker than you meant to be -- keep it up if it happened even though you knew the potential dangers, like alcohol poisoning and impaired judgement. Revelers of all ages could use a reminder to help them party (more) safely, and a group of design students at the University of Washington have a neat idea for using technology to make it happen.
Their concept, the Vive bracelet, is a Bluetooth-connected wearable that combines biometric data, online and “IRL” social networks, and haptic feedback to integrate safety checks into the party without killing the buzz. While still only a prototype, Vive won Best Product Concept at the Microsoft Design Expo last summer.
The idea is that bars and concert venues could hand out the bracelets instead of wristbands or hand stamps at the door, or that partygoers could bring their own personal Vive to any event. Each user syncs the bracelet with her smartphone to establish her identity, then syncs it again with her friends’ bracelets, creating a group of virtual wingmen.
At regular intervals throughout the night, Vive will vibrate as a reminder for the user to check herself and her surroundings: How many drinks has she had? Where are her friends? Does she feel safe? If everything’s OK, she gives the bracelet a squeeze and keeps right on partying. And whenever she makes a new friend, she can tap her Vive to theirs to mark them as someone to exchange contact info and social media profiles with after sobering up.
At the same time, Vive’s biometric sensors are monitoring drunkenness and dehydration through contact with the user’s skin. The more inebriated she gets, the more often Vive asks her to check in. If she ignores the bracelet or is unable to respond, her friends’ bracelets signal that something’s amiss so they can find her and intervene as necessary.
The students who designed Vive were motivated by the fact that alcohol often plays a major role in sexual assault, both on campus and in the rest of society. But instead of putting the burden on potential victims to drink less or avoid parties, Vive encourages an active social life while sneaking safety into the party via the “Trojan horse” of friend groups and social media exchanges.
"Our aim is 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,” the team writes. “We’re not naive about this and aren’t claiming Vive can stop all sexual assault. … With Vive, we’re intervening here earlier in this timeline, crucially, before an individual has been removed from the safety of their social network.”
On the heels of media coverage that followed the Design Expo award, the team has been “in talks with many different people and groups to see what is possible” to make Vive a reality, one of the students tells Postscapes.
See Vive’s concept video below, and watch the students’ Design Expo presentation to learn more.