Humans have become increasingly vulnerable to technology that grabs our attention, by design, often pulling us away from more meaningful and fulfilling moments in our lives.
Can technology itself be part of the solution?
Our guest this week on the Startup Podcast is leading a technology startup based on that premise: Caroline Cadwell, co-founder and CEO of Unpluq, a recent graduate of the Techstars Seattle accelerator program.
The startup, co-founded with Jorn Rigter (chief techology officer) and Tim Smits (chief product officer), offers an app, subscription service, and keychain tag designed to help people become more mindful about their use of smartphones, social media, and other addictive apps.
The idea is to help people “overcome what has been engineered against the very biology of being human,” Cadwell explains.
Unpluq lets users create schedules to insert small but meaningful barriers that need to be overcome to open selected apps on days and at times that users specify. In the premium version, for example, users can set Unpluq to require them to use the NFC keychain tag to access certain apps.
That moment of “intentional friction” is designed to help make the use of addictive apps a conscious choice, and not an automatic behavior.
“You have to think twice. It gives you a moment of pause,” Cadwell says. “And as I see it a moment to have a chance of being successful in making the decision that you really wanted to make for yourself.”
Unpluq currently offers an Android app, and it’s releasing an iPhone version soon. The company offers an Unpluq tag and a premium one-year subscription (normally $3.99/month) for $59.95.
As mentioned on the episode, I’ve been testing out the Unpluq tag and service for the past several weeks, and I’m planning to write more about my experience in an upcoming post on Startup.
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Related links and references
Audio editing by Curt Milton.