Automated Anchoring Armour – Instant Therapy for Nervous People

Therapy machines

AAA is a device worn as protective armour for nervous people to cope with anxieties arising in social situations. The functionality of the device is modeled after the theory of ’Anchoring‘, a method of mental conditioning which forms part of the NLP repertoire of mental self-enhancement techniques (Bandler, Grinder 1979).

Following the logic of straight stimulus-response conditioning, Anchoring seeks to link a specific haptic sensation with a certain positive memory. In doing so, it seeks to evoke the positive feelings ‘on-demand’. The mental connection between the feelings associated with the memory and the haptic stimulus itself is in advance obtained through training. The above-described method is connected to a biofeedback loop, which senses the wearer’s state of insecurity through a galvanic skin response (GSR) sensor (Shi et al. 2007).


The device comprises of a GSR sensor, a linear actuator, an Arduino board, a battery pack and other electronic components, embedded into a mounting. The mounting itself is attached to a leather wristband that holds the apparatus in place. The device is tightly strapped to the wearer’s left lower forearm, with the thumb resting in a noose. To use the device, the wearer places her fingertips on the GSR sensor on the palm of her hand, which measures her current stress levels. If the level exceeds a certain threshold, the pressure function of AAA comes into action:
The device performs pressure actuation which trigger the stored positive memory.

Machine conditioning

It is vital for the Anchoring technique to be executed at the same locus on the skin, with the same intensity. Since machines perform mechanical processes with calculated precision, and unlike human beings, remain undisturbed by emotion, they become an obvious choice of tool for this kind conditioning.

Therapy culture

Furedi’s term ‘Therapy culture’ characterises the recent therapeutic turn towards emotional life, which widely replaces a focus on greater social interdependencies, resulting into the cultivation of vulnerabilities. Furedi argues, “The therapeutic imperative is not so much towards the realisation of self-fulfillment as the promotion of self-limitation. It posits the self in distinctly fragile and feeble form and insists that the management of life requires the continuous intervention of psychological exercise.”


The goal of AAA is to take this point of critique to a physical manifestation in form of a device that acts as an emotional pacemaker for therapy-seeking people. As a ‘design for debate’ (Dunne 2001) its exaggerated physical shape not only enable the device’s functionality, it also amplifies the notion of AAA as protective equipment. Protective gear foretell the danger and ‘project intimidating signs of superiority, whether technical, spiritual, or physical’ (Antonelli 2005) to the opponent. This way, AAA acts as a statement piece. It communicates the wearer’s vulnerability while showing off a delusion of being under therapeutic guard.


Antonelli, P, Lowry G. D., O’Mahony, M., Patton P. and Yelavich, S. (2005). Safe. Design Takes On Risk. The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Bandler, R. and Grinder, J. (1979). Frogs into Princes: Neuro Lingustic Programming: Introduction to Neurolinguistic Programming. Real People Press, Boulder.

Dunne, A. and Raby, F. (2001). Design Noir: The Secret Life of Electronic Objects. Birkhäuser Basel, 1st edition.

Furedi, F. (2003). Therapy Culture: Cultivating Vulnerability in an Uncertain Age. Routledge Oxford, 1st edition.

Shi, Y., Ruiz, N., Taib, R., Choi, E., and Chen, F. (2007). Galvanic skin response (gsr) as an index of cognitive load. In CHI ‘07: CHI ‘07 extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems, pages 2651-2656, New York, NY, USA. ACM.

The wearable device as emotional pacemaker for therapy-seeking people.

The wearer places her fingertips on the GSR sensor on the palm of her hand, which measures her current stress levels.

The device's exaggerated physical shape not only enable the it's functionality, it also amplifies the notion of AAA as protective equipment.


AAA – Automated Anchoring Device.

Hertrich, S. und Joost, G. AAA – Automated Anchoring Device. Devices That Alter Perception in conjunction with ISMAR 2010, October 13th 2010, Seoul, South Korea.