Our smartphones, computers, smart watches, and all of the other electronics we’re surrounded with daily are indisputably helpful. But they also cause an effect that we probably didn’t anticipate at the beginning of the technology age: technology overload. You know the feeling you get when you find yourself picking up your phone out of habit, then you’re not sure why you’re holding it? The separation anxiety you feel when you can’t check your email? The complete horror that wells up inside of you when your internet service is down for a few hours? That’s a bona fide tech addiction, and a surprising number of us are afflicted with it.
Greater Than is a concept from marketing and design company Code and Theory. It was developed in response to a request from Co.Design to come up with a wearable device that moves beyond the current generation of smart watches and other wearables we suddenly find ourselves immersed in. The small object starts out looking like a stick made of rubber and aluminum. Its shape, according to Code and Theory, is reminiscent of a candy bar to symbolize its ability to provide “a moment of indulgence.”
When you feel yourself getting a bit overwhelmed by the world around you, you twist the top portion of the bar until it forms a right angle (tipped to the side, it forms a “>” or “greater than” sign). The device fits on your ear, where only the rubber portion actually touches your skin. It isn’t overly designed, and it certainly doesn’t try to blend in or disappear into your physiology. It’s a statement piece that tells other people you’re taking a break from them and everything else for a few minutes.
But what does the odd object actually do? The device contains a tiny EEG sensor that measures your brainwaves and a bone-conduction speaker plays an appropriate music loop to bring your mind to a calm state. The sounds are meant to induce theta brain rhythms, those deliciously meditative brainwaves that occur when you are exceptionally relaxed or drowsy. Greater Than is meant to be worn for just a few minutes at a time, in contrast to our other gadgets which we are expected to have attached to our bodies at all times. When you’ve had your 10 to 30 minutes of velvety deep-brain relaxation, the device twists back into a stick and charges in a cup on your desk, getting ready for the next time your brain needs a micro-vacation.