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Microsoft may be working on a new notification system that alerts users by giving them a mild electric shock. The company has filed a patent application titled “wearable computer having a skin-stimulating interface” which describes the process as “providing electrical stimuli to the skin of user to convey information to a user.”
The patent says the technology would be able to alert people of events such as receiving texts and emails, or act as an extremely effective morning alarm. It goes on to suggest that the system could be used for health and navigation reasons; it could remind a user to walk about if they’ve been inactive too long, or direct someone by shocking different parts of their body.
To alleviate concerns many people may have about the prospect of being mildly electrocuted every time they get an email, the patent points out that the shocks will feel more like tingles.
The one or more electrical stimuli may have no amperage, or the amperage may be negligible. The one or more electrical stimuli may have a refresh rate, which may be any suitable frequency, such as 1.5 kiloHertz (kHz), 1.3 kHz, 1.1 kHz, 1.0 kHz, and so on.
In the patent's diagrams, Microsoft gives examples of a shoe and a t-shirt as items of clothing that the sensors could be integrated into. It also mentions that the electrical stimuli could be used to inform a user of the condition of the clothing they are wearing, meaning you won’t even have to look down anymore to see if your shirt’s full of holes - an electric shock will inform you when it’s time to go clothes shopping.
Wearable technology is becoming ever more commonplace; smartwatches continue to grow in popularity as an increasing number of industry giants such as Casio enter the market, while Google and Levi’s are working on creating a pair of ‘smart’ jeans that allow wearers to perform certain actions on their phones - such as tapping a pocket to switch a device to silent. It’s worth pointing out, however, that as with all patent applications, there’s a chance this electric shock notification system will never become a reality.