There are many ways to protect yourself on sketchy city streets, carrying pepper spray or whistles being foremost among them. Now, there’s also this weird furry necklace that periodically squirts aromas into your face, reminding you to stand up straighter and walk with more confidence, supposedly lessening chances of being attacked.
Sound like a joke? We thought so, too, but the "PosturAroma" necklace, designed by a team of University of Amsterdam students, is a real thing. It was a response to MediaLAB Amsterdam's recent challenge to develop an intervention that improves women’s safety in public spaces.
The design's premise is based on evidence suggesting that criminals choose victims who are slouching and looking down as they walk—signs of distraction and vulnerability. It’s such a common pattern in muggings and assaults that psychologists have dubbed it the "downcast demeanor." Self-defense teachers preach that you should look as alert and assertive as possible on potentially dangerous streets while still avoiding an attention-getting swagger—a difficult balance to strike.
Here's how PosturAroma works: A "triple axis accelerometer" device implanted near the clasp of the necklace detects movement and senses the angle of the wearer’s back. Whenever the back gets too slouchy, the necklace puffs out a scent, such as lemongrass, strawberry, or mandarin peel, which the team tested and found were associated with feelings of safety.
While the basic premise behind the design—encouraging better posture to help prevent attacks—makes some sense, and the intentions are good, the execution is questionable. Outside of avant-garde fashion circles, what woman is going to wear a necklace that looks like a string of furry rabbits’ feet and cardboard donuts? Is a bulky, high-tech necklace really the best way to promote better posture?
The design is still in prototype stages, so hopefully by the time it hits the market, it will have evolved into a slender gold chain that magically straightens your back without the invasive scents. Still, it’s a better protection against assailants than dressing like a vending machine.