When I was a student, sometimes I’d stab myself in the leg with the tip of my mechanical pencil to keep from dozing off during lectures. That usually didn’t work. Now sleepy students–and other people who need to stay alert for long periods of time–can benefit from Vigo, a Bluetooth headset that measures blinks and body movements to warn users if they are getting too drowsy.
Vigo can be potentially life-saving for drivers and people in other situations where losing alertness can be dangerous, especially since your brain can get fatigued before your body starts to feel tired. The device is currently on Kickstarter and has already reached more than $38,000 of its $50,000 goal, and with 15 days left to go, it has a decent chance of getting funded. The device’s early bird price is a very reasonable $59.
TechCrunch first wrote about Vigo in November while it participating in HAXLR8R, a hardware accelerator program based in Shenzhen, China. Vigo uses an infrared sensor, accelerometer, and its own algorithm to track patterns in your blinks and body movements to gauge your alertness in real-time, and sends you a warning if your energy levels start to drop.
As its Kickstarter page puts it, “Vigo knows you’re drowsy before you do.” You can choose from several alerts, including a gentle vibration, a blinking LED or a song that’s played through the headpiece from your mobile device.
The makers of Vigo say that the average blink happens in 1/5 of a second, but the headset “tracks over 20 parameters in your blinks and watches how these variables change.” It then combines that info with data about your activity and head motions to “quantify your mental energy in real-time.”
You can tag different events (like driving, sitting in class, or study sessions) and save data to look at later. That way you know what times of day you tend to get tired and can make changes in your daily routine to boost your energy levels.
Vigo will also give you recommendations about what you need to do to regain alertness ASAP. For example, if you just need a quick boost, it’ll tell you to drink a cup of coffee or do some quick exercise. But if you’re too tired to function safely, Vigo will order you to take a nap.
In addition to tracking alertness, Vigo works like other Bluetooth headsets and lets you take incoming calls. The startup plans to launch a SDK for iOS and Android, as well as an API, for other developers.
Vigo’s three co-founder–Drew Karabinos, Jason Gui, and Jonathan Kern–began working on its prototype while they were studying at the University of Pennsylvania and struggling to stay awake through cram sessions, lectures, and internships.
“Coffees and energy drinks were all somewhat effective in keeping us from dozing off, but the most reliable way to stay alert was having a buddy next to us that could watch when we were losing our focus and nudge us when we started to doze off,” they say on Vigo’s Kickstarter page. “Since carrying a friend around all the time wasn’t feasible, we built the next best thing.”