Glasses act as a shock collar for students who don’t pay attention 

Glasses that shock students into paying attention have understandably not been received well.

The glasses are designed to vibrate their wearer’s cheekbones when they detect wavering attention. People are speaking out against the glasses, saying they are harmful, especially for people with learning disabilities.

“Yeah I’d like a productivity shock collar that sounds cool, healthy, and normal,” YouTube user Riley Scott wrote. “We live in hell.”

The glasses, called AttentivU, were created by researchers as a project out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) lab. A press release for the glasses states that the glasses have already been tested on over 100 live subjects.

“It is increasingly hard for adults and children alike to be attentive given the increasing amounts of information and distractions surrounding us,” the press release reads. “We have developed AttentivU: a device, in a socially acceptable form factor of a pair of glasses, that a person can put on in moments when he/she wants/needs to be attentive.”

Historically, treatment for autism, ADHD, and other types of neurodivergance have focused on compliance and having the individual appear as neurotypical–that is, a person without learning disabilities or diverging neurotypes–as possible.

The consequences for this are only starting to be recognized, but involve lifelong trauma as well as inhibiting one’s ability to learn.

And because of the fixation on eye contact as a marker of the students’ level of attention and engagement, the MIT researchers used eye movement and brain activity sensors to detect the level of engagement a person is exhibiting “and provide either audio or haptic feedback to the user when their engagement is low, thereby nudging them to become engaged again.”

The glasses align with other abusive yet mainstream training methods that autistic and other disabled children are subjected to. This is naturally a cause for concern among the autistic, ADHD, and neurodiverse community and their allies.

“In other words ‘torture neuroatypical children until they put up a good appearance of being neurotypical’. Brilliant idea,” Twitter user @rstoneham77 wrote.

Many are pointing out that the glasses are going to have the opposite effect of their intent by distracting ADHD people.

“If someone made my students wear these I’d take every one of them and throw them in the dumpster,” one teacher wrote.

At the moment the glasses are still very new, and we don’t know if they’ll be adopted by any educational or behavioral institutions. But given institutions’ track record on helping disabled children, the concerns are very real.

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Siobhan Ball

Siobhan Ball

Siobhan Ball is a historian, archivist, and journalist. She also writes for Autostraddle and bi.org