A Boston start-up is developing a wristband they say will help users break bad habits by jolting them with an electric shock. Ben Gruber reports.
STORY: This used to be a daily routine for Justus Eapen - pouring a beer after work. He wanted to break the habit, so he started wearing a newly developed wristband called Pavlok, which produces an electric shock to punish him for drinking. (SOUNDBITE) (English) JUSTUS EAPEN, PAVLOK USER, SAYING: " Every day for five days I would go to the keg, I would fill up a beer and I would shock myself. And then I would take it back and sip on it and every time I took a sip, I would shock myself. So this sucked really bad day one." And it sucked for day 2, day 3, and days 4 and 5. But after a couple weeks of self administered shock therapy, Justus lost his taste for a pint after work - he hasn't had one in 4 months. (SOUNDBITE) (English) JUSTUS EAPEN, PAVLOK USER, SAYING: "And now, like the beer is there and I can intellectually enjoy a beer if I had one but I just don't want one because I never get the craving." According to its creators, the shock produced by the wristband is a negative stimulus which disrupts the neural patterns that form the bad habit. To bolster habit-breaking success, Chris Schelzi, the marketing director for Pavlok, recommends replacing the bad habit with a good one like exercise or meditation. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHRIS SCHELZI, DIRECTOR OF MARKETING, PAVLOK, SAYING: "We found that it is super effective and even more so in some cases than we thought it was going to be. And so we were testing different use cases to see if it would work doing this, would it work for smoking or biting your nails or stop drinking beer or having negative depressive thought patterns and we found that it very successful in all of those areas." The wristband can produce a short electric burst up to 350 volts, but Schelzi says the shock can be dialled down to a fraction of that and Schelzi says it is perfectly safe to use. So far with habits like smoking and drinking the wristband needs to be activated by the user to administer a shock. But the company is working to automate the jolt in some cases. Using a cloud based system together with Bluetooth - a user can program the Pavlok to zap them for excessive web surfing (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHRIS SCHELZI, DIRECTOR OF MARKETING, PAVLOK, SAYING: "Facebook, Netflix, porn sites, Youtube, whatever it is. So we have a chrome extension so you can plug in your blacklisted sites. So whatever sites you don't want to go to - you type it in and then every time that page loads you get automatically shocked." Shockingly - the idea has proven a huge hit with crowd funding efforts, pulling in more than a quarter million dollars to date. The company is ramping up production with the hopes of zapping thousands of customers in the next few years.