“Why do I do this to myself? It’s not for me. I lay down my life, my comfort, my mental stability for the collective. For the geeks. For you.” – Saint Miek, shortly after shocking himself for eating too many candy corns.
Pavlok 2 ($149.99 -$299.99) by Pavlok is a wearable wrist device that delivers 340 volts of habit breaking electricity into your unsuspecting arm. If it’s good enough for your German Shepherd who has a tendency to bark too much at Jehovah’s Witnesses at your door, then it’s good enough for you!
“What is a Pavlok 2?” you may ask. Well, the name Pavlok is derived from the works of Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov, whose work in 1897 linked a dog’s salivation to the stimulus of the ringing of a dinner bell. The Pavlok wearable device uses the same conditioning technique with two caveats. 1. You are not a dog, so your responses to stimulus are far more complicated. And 2. You are applying this electro-stimulus to yourself, so it’s a bit more humane than the previously mentioned e-shock dog collar. Pavlok’s website describes their technique as “Aversion Conditioning” which translates to “You do something bad, you get another shocky-poo.”
Who needs a personalized, electro-shock treatment? Mostly everyone, I’m guessing. We’ve all got bad habits we could probably do without. From smoking to eating too many carbs, to picking our noses while we drive, to paying homeless men to fight in alleyways. We all have weaknesses. What if there was a device you could strap to your wrist that could give you a slightly irritating zap of discomfort every time you visited your ex’s Facebook profile? Well… here it is!
I picked up one of these beauties for less than $100 (basic configuration with a discount code) and started down the road of electro-enhanced habit breaking. It’s a lonely road, covered with billboards advertising sketchy psychiatric institutions, where mad people wear mouth guards so they won’t bite their tongues off when the madder doctors place electro-shock paddles on their foreheads and deliver the mind wiping electricity to subdue a psychotic episode. But I digress. I love devices such as these. I love that bridge between technology and the physical/spiritual world. And my wife would tell you that I have plenty of negative habits that could use some correcting. So, what the hell, I’ll strap myself down to the table for a bit.
The Pavlok 2 device is small 1” x 1/2” plastic and metal brick that slips into the back of a black silicone wristband with a small lightning bolt led display. (I told my kids that I use it to summon Shazaam when things get rough at work.) The Pavlok device has to be removed from the silicone band in order to charge the device via mini-USB charger, which is only slightly inconvenient. Physically, the wrist band resembles an old chunky Fit Bit, but it’s different enough to start some real uncomfortable conversations with co-workers. Expect some, “why would you do that to yourself?” and, “That’s kinda sick,” reactions. They’re not wrong. It is kinda sick.
Try not to be confused as I was about the difference between the Pavlok 2, and the Shock Clock 2. They are both the same hardware, but the Pavlock 2 has most of the App features unlocked, where the Shock Clock doesn’t. Also, try not to be confused by the photos of the Pavlok on the website. Most of the photos are of the Pavlok 1 (where the device sits on top of a watch band).
The device itself works pretty consistently and holds a charge for well over a week (but it might be less when I’m an especially naughty boy). Wearing the device on your “other” hand, opposite your every day wearable (Fitbit or Apple Watch) is a bit annoying. So you may have to sacrifice your timepiece in addition to shocking the shit out of yourself.
UPDATE: According to a memo from the developer, there is Apple watch band Pavlok device in the works. I think this would be super awesome, and would upgrade the overall experience (as long as it doesn’t electrocute my $400 smart watch in the process.)
The Pavlock app is available for iOS and Android. The iOS version, which I tested, is a mixed bag of useful and confusing. It includes “Pavlok core apps” which are currently: My Pavlok Remote (remotely zap yourself, or your friends), Sleep App (sleep tracking and alarm system), Habit (to set up the habits you want to break) and Routines App (create morning and evening routines). It has it’s own App Store where you can purchase more functionality for your device, integrating IFTTT, a chrome extension to zap via your browser, and various social integrations so you can shock your friends and neighbors (I think).
The App is clearly a work in progress. The developer made some odd choices in terms of naming it’s currency “volts” and using them as an exchange for additional features. You gain “volts” by tracking actions, creating an account, adding gratitude entries, which you can exchange for additional apps in Pavlok’s internal App Store called “App Vault.”
The associated instructional videos are anything but polished. They seem rushed and poorly executed.
Now, this is where the magic happens. I didn’t really understand the true potential of this device until I unlocked and added the Pavlok Chrome Extension. As a consummate procrastinator, I saw the potential in breaking the habit of interweb distractions as my big goal. With this Chrome Extension I linked my Pavlok to my browser and set a list of distracting sites, and hit the jackpot. If I spend more than 15 seconds on Facebook I get a little notification that I should be doing something else, and If I ignore that warning I get a little shock. If I man it out and stay on the site, I get another little notification and a succession of rapid fire shocks. Pretty freakin’ effective. You can even set specific pages on Facebook to be safe (in case you do use Facebook professionally for business purposes). I love this extension. It’s nothing great to look at, but it works 90% of the time.
THE SLEEP APP –
If you have trouble getting up in the morning without hitting a snooze button, this is a great feature. You set a wake time in the app, remember to put the Pavlok 2 device on your wrist when you go to bed, then wait for the fireworks. Pavlok can be programmed to wake you up via vibration, alarm and zap. You can control how many of these alarms you want, I picked vibration then zap. After a few days, you won’t need the zap. Very effective.
“I think it’s about time we updated flagellation and brought it into the 21st Century.” – Nobody, ever.
It lacks the shine and polish of a fully realized device, but it has a lot of potential. When it works, it really works well, when it doesn’t I chock it up to being a beta product. If you can look past the clunky app experience and instructional videos there is a very interesting device here. I wonder about people using this device with less impulse control than me. I wonder about people who would get off on zapping themselves for the hell of it.
Find your personal torture device here: www.pavlok.com