The concentration-assisting app uHealth reminds me of the old prescription for when you have a hangover – take a drink of whatever caused the drunkenness. In this case, app developer Umoove is utilizing the very device that has been found guilty for causing everyone’s short attention span today—the smartphone. Mobile device users are plugging into multiple internet channels every second of the day. The average user is multi-tasking between texting on WhatsApp and other instant messaging apps, posting on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat, all while shopping and watching their favorite TV show or video channels. Add to this verbal interaction with family and colleagues, commuting to work and actually working. In fact, the National Center for Biotechnology Information says that the average attention span was 12 seconds back in 2000, and shrunk down to only 8 seconds in 2013 – that’s literally 1 second less than a goldfish.
uHealth is an iOS app just released the end of January. The idea is to use smartphone technology to train your mind to ignore the distractions of outside stimuli thereby strengthening your ability to focus and concentrate on the task at hand. The uHealth app currently has two eye tracking games—Attention and Focus. Users must first master the levels involved in Attention for seven days, before they can unlock and enter the game Focus.
uHealth requires some physical set-up. You must position your smartphone a minimum of 30 cm in front of you and then focus your eyes on a certain strip that opens up on your screen so that the eye tracking technology can accurately track your eye movement. Once oriented, you will hear instructions and must move your eyes accordingly, without moving your head.
Early reviews find Attention to be a bit boring, making it a challenge even to someone with the greatest concentration skills. The technology follows your eye movement and can tell if you are getting distracted. When it picks up that you are veering off course, so to speak, it sounds an alert, and you lose points.
Lest you think this all sounds a bit quacky, uHealth actually is built on a strong foundation of science that links eye movements to brain activity. In fact, eye movement is a tool for discovering early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The app uses technology similar to that employed by therapists, but without the costly sessions. Umoove’s founders plan to continue research and development of the uHealth app, so that it can be helpful to children with attention disorders such as ADD and other focusing-related barriers to educational achievement.