If a friend is stressing you out, is cutting them out of your life the logical step? A new smartwatch, Pplkpr , thinks so – the device and app track which friends get your heart rate up and which ones make you happy.
Using a Bluetooth monitor and a GPS tracker, Pplkpr (pronounced “people keeper”) analyzes your relationships by examining your heart rate variability and stress levels to detect spikes in your emotions. Over time, the iOS app learns to "auto-manage your social life," blocking or deleting contacts it thinks are bad for your health and scheduling time to hang out with people who make you feel good.
The app's Brooklyn-based co-creator, Lauren McCarthy, tells us the inspiration for Pplkpr came from looking at the trend of wearables changing our behavior.
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“The idea of an algorithm tracking and managing your social life feels creepy, but what if it actually works?” she says. “What if it improves your relationships and emotional life?”
There’s also a bigger question that the Pplkpr team is probing: Can quantifying our life go too far?
“The app is a critical response to trends we see in quantified self, big data and surveillance, but we don’t believe any of these things are black and white,” she says. “Too often the conversations around these topics become reduced to gut reactions and fear mongering.”
To put it to the test, McCarthy and colleagues gave the device to a group of students at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. What was their reaction?
“They didn’t seem to have as many preconceived biases against the potential for this kind of technology to have a positive impact on their life,” she said.
A few students tried using the app in romantic contexts — McCarthy says they “always turned out for the best.” Though there was one hiccup: “One pair of best friends who were using the app got blocked from each other because they were working on a group project that always stressed them out.”