The wacky world of wearables has a new would-be entrant: meet doppel, a wrist-worn device that’s not a smartwatch, not a fitness tracker, and not (just) a heart-rate monitor. Caveat: It’s also not yet a product; the London-based team building doppel have just kicked off a crowdfunding campaign to try to get their working prototype to market.
So what on earth is doppel? It’s a psychophysiology wearable for people who want to be able to influence how they’re feeling by using a tactile rhythm (aka customized haptic feedback) — as a noiseless alternative to listening to mood-influencing music of different tempos.
Basically this wearable is designed to tap your wrist at a pace of your choosing. It’s intended to be worn with its ‘face’ inside so the haptic beat is felt upon the inner wrist.
“Doppel harnesses your body’s natural response to rhythm similarly to upbeat or downbeat music, but it’s a pulse you feel on your wrist rather than one you hear. It can be used to keep you going through a really long meeting, help you stay calm during a presentation or wind down at the end of the day. It gives people more control over how they feel,” says co-founder Jack Hooper.
There’s a companion app where the doppel user configures the device to their resting heart rate. After setup, the wearable itself is controlled directly via the hardware — either by pressing for a stronger beat, or turning the dial to intensify the beat, or stroking the face to slow things down.
The team started working on doppel at the end of 2013, while still students at London’s Imperial College. The founders include a mechanical engineer, a theoretical physicist, a materials scientist and an industrial designer.
So how much hard science actually underpins the doppel concept? Hooper argues they are drawing on “very well established” research into the psychological effects of music and other people’s bio-rhythms — such as how the breathing or heart rate of parents or lovers can affect well-being.
Whether a mechanical tapping can replicate the latter examples seems doubtful, but he says they have tested doppel and have found tangible results for calming or increasing alertness use-cases.
“Our step was to use a tactile rhythm, rather than an audio or visual one. We have successfully tested it with hundreds of people both in controlled tests and in real world scenarios for improving focus and alertness, staying calm when nervous, for cadence while running and to wind down before going to sleep,” he says.
“We also commissioned independent academic tests of doppel’s affect of on alertness and focus. These placebo controlled trials used the objective measurement of reaction time to test the effect. At the right settings doppel was shown to increase alertness and focus, and also to sustain performance levels compared to the control condition.”
The team has been bootstrapping development thus far, taking in a little friends and family funding, plus grant funding from Innovate UK, a Horizon 2020 accelerator called FI-C3 and the Deutsche Bank Award for Creative Enterprise.
At this point doppel is a working prototype and a finalised design for manufacture. They’re aiming to raise a rather ambitious £100,000 via Kickstarter over the next month so it remains to be seen whether this wearable will carve a niche or not. It’s being offered to early crowdfunding backers for £70 ($110), which is expensive for such a leftfield wearable that also requires a sizable chunk of wrist real-estate. Still, you can’t accuse them of building another me-too fitness tracker.