Vigo, a Bluetooth-enabled headset developed by a San Francisco-based startup, is designed to help wearers to combat everyday drowsiness even before they realize they are tired, and so could prevent many road accidents.
Nowadays we lead increasingly demanding lives and many people are plagued with problems of tiredness, some even suffering from chronic fatigue. Employees with long working days, attending interminable meetings, and students who have to revise until late in the evening are just some of the people who from time to time feel drowsy and lose concentration. It was this observation that prompted three students from the University of Pennsylvania – Drew Karabinos, Jason Gui and Jonathan Kern – to get together to create Vigo, a Bluetooth-enabled headset which measures body movements and eye blinks in real time, and gives the wearer a little nudge if s/he starts to doze off. The idea behind this alertness gauge is to warn people of the onset of fatigue even before they notice it themselves. The startup is currently running a fund-raising campaign on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter and with about fifteen days to go has received over $38,000 of its target of $50,000.
Personal energy gauge
In order to assess the user’s mental energy levels, Vigo combines an infrared sensor, an accelerometer and a processor capable of onboard algorithm processing. The device monitors a person’s movements and tracks twenty different parameters on the wearer’s eye blinking patterns. In addition to warning you when mental energy levels are low, or when you are becoming drowsy, Vigo works with an Android app that enables you to personalize the service. The app provides recommendations on how to get your energy level up again, and also offers a choice of alerts – a soft pulsing vibration, a discreet LED flash or your favorite song playing in your ear. The app also builds up a pattern of the times of day when your mental energy levels are often low and, as an optional service, can suggest useful ways to change your routine if necessary. Vigo also works as a traditional Bluetooth headset, so you can make and receive calls, and it functions with other Bluetooth 4.0 devices. The team expects to ship Vigo in May this year, at a price of $119 ($59 for Early Birds).
System for tracking drivers’ mental alertness
One obvious application of this device would be to help prevent drivers from falling asleep at the wheel. The system could be marketed to professional drivers, making working conditions for long-distance truck drivers easier, and reducing the number of road accidents due to drivers nodding off. In the road safety field, a number of companies have already been working on spotting driver drowsiness using Eyetracking methods – a system which films the movement of the eye over a visual stimulus. For example, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany have developed an Eyetracker system which uses two cameras installed on the vehicle dashboard and sets off an alarm if the driver looks away from the road for too long. L’Atelier has also reported on the work of researchers at the universities of Leicester, UK, and Buenos Aires, Argentina on a system which detects tiredness in drivers by tracking eye movements and the brain’s electrical activity. Meanwhile, the Vigo team is planning to launch an SDK for iOS and Andoid and an API for other developers in the near future.