Revenge by gadget, or annoyance-tech

People are inventing novel technologies to deal with life’s everyday annoyances. For example, MIT graduate students — who designed a “no-contact jacket” that delivers a jolt of electricity to anyone who touches it, such as subway gropers — call it “annoyancetech.”

In “Revenge by Gadget,” Jennifer Saranow of The Wall Street Journal (17 August 2007) describes some common annoyances and the commercially available products available to deal with them:

Lousy drivers? There’s a luminescent screen for the rear window of cars that allows the driver to flash one of five messages to other drivers, e.g., happy face, sad face, “Back Off,” “Idiot.” (My suggestion, in the interests of civility: When you know you’ve made a bad move, it would be nice to be able to flash “Sorry!”) Naturally, some folks have suggested images of offensive hand gestures.

Neighbor’s dog barking all night? Get an outdoor “bark control” device that shuts up other people’s dogs by answering their barks with an ultrasonic squeal that humans can’t hear. (The device is disguised as a birdhouse so the neighbors don’t know. No word on what the birds think.)

Boss or spouse tracking your whereabouts via cell phone? There’s an “excuse box” that plays one-minute sounds — such as police sirens or airport announcements — in the background to help explain to callers why you’re late or convince them you’re someplace other than where you really are.

Blaring TV at the car-repair shop? There’s a universal remote-control handset that allows people to shut off loud TVs in public places. But the zappers can be zapped: Some business owners have removed the infrared receivers from TVs in public places so the zappers won’t work.)

And, of course…

“Though illegal in the U.S., cell phone jammers have been floating around for nearly as long as cell phones.”

Historically, many inventions have dealt with life’s annoyances. The TV remote control — back in 1950 — allowed people to skip commercials. But inventions today benefit from the minitaurization of electronics and cheap production in China.

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