Work, but not too long

With WFH and remote learning, I find it either really hard to focus and keep on getting distracted, or sitting too long in front of my laptop until my back hurts.

Work, but not too longĀ “rewards” you when you sit in front of your laptop for a short period of time, and “warns” you when you sit in front of your laptop for too long.

Consider this example scenario: You tried to get some work done, but you keep going to the kitchen or lying on the couch. And when you finally stayed in front of your laptop for a short period of time, you are rewarded! Now that you got into the momentum, you keep working and working. Hours went by, and by the time you realized that you’ve been sitting too long, your back already hurts.

In my system, the “reward” is a colorful light sequence, and the “warning” is blinking red lights. It uses a button to set the background distance to maximize its portability, and uses ultrasonic to measure the distance.



For demoing purpose, the “reward” period is set to be 5s, and the “warning” period is set to be 15s. But in reality, a 30min “reward” period and a 2h “warning” period are practical.

Before I sit down, I hit the button to get the background distance. Then I sit, there is a “reward” for every “reward” period until I hit the warning period. If I stand up and move away from the laptop, then the timer/cycle restarts.

What’s missing in this video is that warning is only on for a short period of time. Like how you can snooze an alarm, you are snoozing the system when you stay seated, and after another reward period, the system will warn you again.

One flaw of the system is that it requires manually setting the background distance, and it can be easily solved using computer vision to detect whether a face is present. Such solution would require a lot more computing power and much more sophisticated software.


Hi, I'm Catherine Yu. I'm a senior studying Computer Science with a minor in physical computing. I'm super excited to learn from all of you!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.