Technology ‘eyes’ sleeping employees

Aub. 3, 2018
by Mark Ollig

Staring at the computer screen, you let out a big yawn and rub your eyes while seated at your office desk.

Maybe you were out late last night and did not get much sleep.

Anyway, you are exhausted; your eyelids begin to get heavy, the information you’re looking at on the screen becomes fuzzy, and your mind starts to wander.

You are getting sleepy . . . very sleepy. Your eyelids now close as you drift off to . . . “Wait a minute! What’s with the blast of cold air on my face?”

“Darn it, now I am wide awake,” you say to yourself.

We have just experienced a successful employee reawakening provided by new technology.

This new technology slyly uses the camera on your computer for scanning your eyelids to determine when you are falling asleep.

When your eyelids close for a specific amount of time, a blast of cold air from a nearby air-conditioning vent is directed at your face to awaken you so you can return to work.

No, I am not making this stuff up.

Electronics giant NEC, along with air conditioning manufacturer Daikin; both based in Japan, have joined forces in creating a system for monitoring the eyelids of employees using the camera connected to their computer.

Facial recognition technology from NEC (possibly their NeoFace software) will be used to monitor and analyze the eyelid movements of employees utilizing their computer’s camera.

We all notice the built-in camera on our laptops; heck, some of us even have taped a small piece of cardboard over the lens just in case some hacker remotely activates the camera and watches our activities from who-knows-where on the planet.

You do keep your computer camera lens covered when you’re not using it, right?

But, I digress.

The NEC facial recognition software notices when your eyes are closed while you are at your desk.

It will send an instruction message to the Daikin air conditioning system, along with your location.

The Daikin system then finds the nearest air vent at your location, and activates a burst of cold air, which of course, is directed towards you.

I imagine the system will determine the amount of coolness needed; if the person is known to be a heavy sleeper, it could send a colder stream of air in their face to wake them up.

For me, it might take an Arctic cold blast of air to wake me up. Of course, I have never fallen asleep at my computer – that I can recall.

The NEC-Daikin monitoring system will direct refreshing bursts of cold air towards an employee until they are no longer sleeping. This is determined by the NEC intelligent system “knowing” when your eyes are fully open and focused on the computer screen.

Eventually, future employees will need to get a good night’s sleep to avoid being sprayed with bursts of cold air – or who knows what else – in their face.

Other methods for keeping employees awake at work include lowering office temperatures, brightly painted walls, and automatic dispensing of “awakening fragrances” throughout an office.

Increasing the brightness of office lighting to keep employees attentive to their work is also used.

My personal suggestion is always to have the aroma from a freshly-brewed pot of coffee drifting throughout the office.

In addition to having the repeatedly refilled coffee cup near my keyboard, I also use a device plugged into my computer while working.

A small fan sits on my desk. It is powered from my computer’s USB port.

The cool breeze is refreshing, the whirring sounds are calming, and the humming noise from the fan blades helps to mask my tinnitus.

I also prefer working on my computer in a low-intensity lighting environment.

A Daikin spokesperson reportedly said the monitoring system would be commercially available in 2020.

No official name for this “eye-monitoring cold blast of air in your face system” has been publicly released.

It will be interesting to listen to the reactions of employees working at a company where this new monitoring system is put into operation. I will, of course, keep you posted.

Take comfort in knowing there will be no blasts of cold (or hot) air when you stop by the Bits & Bytes weblog at https://bitscolumn.blogspot.com.

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