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SAP’s recently announced partnership with EMOTIV, a bioinformatics company specializing in understanding the human brain, made me stop for a minute and think about what my computer’s opinion about me as a user (and sometimes abuser) might be.

While the idea of my computer thinking one way or another about me may well be the stuff of sci-fi films, we have come far enough with technology to entertain the concept of being monitored and guided by our computers in our use.

According to Maricel Cabahug, Chief Design Officer at SAP, the system would perform “real-time analyses of people’s cognitive state” and “give users helpful feedback about their cognitive load, stress and attention levels”. For example, by encouraging you to take a quick break or helping you narrow down your content so you only focus on the most important tasks. Ideally, the user would be steered towards more healthy and productive behaviours. Plus you get to wear a nifty brain scan headset thingy as well.

So this begs the question, have we become a hot mess? And do we need our computer to tell us so? When did we lose our ability to read our own stress signals? Last week I blogged about my experiments in turning off my phone after feeling overloaded and overwhelmed while balancing career and family life. I am sure that a brain scan during this time would have shown flashing red signals. And while I would have certainly welcomed the suggestion to take it easy, I do think it is critical that we are able to retain the skills to recognize that in ourselves.

Let’s find our limits. Let’s find our breaking points before we reach them. Let’s take deep breaths and realize when we need to close all those open tabs or briefly step away from our desks. Assistive UX is a breakthrough in our relationship to technology, but let’s not replace it for what should be first and foremost a relationship with ourselves.

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  1. Michelle Crapo

    It’s sad when we are working so much that we need something else – a computer to tell us to stop.  It used to be a boss or co-worker would notice.  But we are all so caught up in getting it ALL done.  Sometimes I think I’m going crazy jumping from project to project.  Sometimes it is so slow that I just want to say where did all the work go?  That’s when I get a quick break to read Blogs, learn new things, and research.

    It’d be interesting to see what my computer thinks about me.  😉



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