Sleep better—your bed is watching you -

Sleep better—your bed is watching you

Consumer electronics are working hard to solve our problems—or humiliate us


Photo illustration by Sarah MacKinnon

The great thing about technology is that it always solves important problems. For instance, today’s automakers like to cram a bunch of failure-prone gizmos into their cars. That has solved the problem of me ever having money.

Lately, I’ve been worried that my bed hasn’t been nagging me enough. To the rescue comes the Sleep Number x12, a mattress so laden with wires, sensors and computer chips that it’s basically a flat, rectangular Terminator.

It uses software called SleepIQ to track your movement, breathing rate and heart rate as you sleep, which seems pretty stressful. It then grades your sleep performance, saying you seem pretty stressed. The bed retails for $7,999—which sounds like a lot, but you can’t put a price on waking up to a fact-based analysis of how your terrible sleeping patterns are leading you to an early grave.

There’s more. The Sleep Number x12 uses a video screen to offer helpful tips, such as: “To prevent trips to the bathroom, limit how much liquid you drink after 8 p.m.” Thanks for the brainwave, super bed. Had never cottoned to the whole liquid-urine connection.

The Sleep Number x12 was featured at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), held earlier this month in Las Vegas. Another popular item? Vibrating underwear for women. Manufactured by OhMiBod, the vibrating pads are operated through a smartphone app. Not to worry, ladies: your boss at work is vain enough to assume it’s his PowerPoint presentation that’s putting a smile on your face.

Personally, my interest lies with the people who designed this product. I’d like to have been there with them over the holidays when their extended families came for dinner.

Grandma: So, Michael, I hear you’ve got a new job.

Michael: Yes, Grandma.

Grandma: It’s great to see you using the education that your parents sacrificed so much to pay for. Tell us all about this job.

Michael: Um, it’s pretty technical. I don’t want to bore you.

Grandma: Nonsense. Spare no detail.

Michael: Well, I guess you could say it involves advanced sensors that are activated via wireless technology.

Grandma: And these sensors are used to?.?.?.?what? Diagnose medical ailments? Improve productivity? Solve irrigation issues that undermine agricultural prog—

Michael: I make vibrating underpants for ladies, Grandma.

There is a pause.

Aunt Heather: Go on.

By the way, the company insists its vibrating underwear is “totally discreet”—so long as you work in an “Oh!” factory.

Or, for $222, you can buy a plastic figurine called Mother, which looks like an overweight bowling pin. With glowing eyes, Mother helps you keep track of important things like: how long you brushed your teeth; whether you’ve consumed enough water; and what you just wasted $222 on.

Another problem that needed solving: Some of us tend to linger outdoors in summer. Currently, the only way to avoid spending too much time in the sun is to engage in the antiquated process known as thinking.

Thanks to a company called Netatmo, you can instead spend $100 on a bracelet that tracks UV exposure and lets you know via smartphone when to go inside. You just have to think for long enough to put on the bracelet and sync it to your smartphone and bring along your phone and make sure the bracelet is exposed to the sun and make sure your phone is nearby at all times and remember to check for updates. What could be easier?

One big trend at CES was wearable technology. Companies are breaking new ground here. For instance, EroGear is producing high-heel shoes that feature a band of LED lights—which can be configured to display light patterns or even show off your Twitter feed. So now everyone in the dance club can see you’re terrible at fashion and spelling.

Another company, Wearable Experiments, has made what it describes as a “smart jacket” to help women navigate unfamiliar cities. Just link it with the GPS on your phone. It uses vibrators built into the shoulder pads to guide you along. If you feel a vibration on your left shoulder, turn left. If you feel a vibration on your right shoulder, turn right. If you feel a vibration in your underpants, you probably won’t care if you get where you’re going.

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