Resistor Case: A DIY Kit to Control Smartphone Use

Hello, engaged community.
I thought you might want to hear about a project called Resistor Case I’ve developed in the Critical Media Lab at the University of Waterloo. It’s a kit that you can use to make a smartphone case with a loud Velcro enclosure. Unlike Yondr, which has its purposes, Resistor Case is more like a “call to conscience.” Hundreds of school students are using it here in Canada. I wrote about it in The Atlantic. I would be very glad to have feedback on the project. Here are some links: .


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Thoughtful piece!

Great distinction between supporting self-regulation vs. imposed control. It’s hard to raise objections to the former, but the latter is fraught with thorny authority issues on which people can reasonably disagree.

One of the strongest arguments that I’ve heard for regulations in the classroom is that like secondhand smoke, there are also secondhand effects of distraction. Summary of one research paper here:

In light of cognitive psychology theory on costs associated with multitasking, we examined the effects of in-class laptop use on student learning in a simulated classroom. We found that participants who multitasked on a laptop during a lecture scored lower on a test compared to those who did not multitask, and participants who were in direct view of a multitasking peer scored lower on a test compared to those who were not. The results demonstrate that multitasking on a laptop poses a significant distraction to both users and fellow students and can be detrimental to comprehension of lecture content.

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It’s a physical device to make it hard to access your smart phone. Ok, that could be useful to some people. To me it seems pretty poor of a solution because the design approach is to increase the effort of the activity, instead of making it less distracting which is the real problem. But it’s like the theory of going on a diet by leaving all the food in plain sight where you walk by it behind a glass refrigerator that is locked and requires extra effort and work to open the refrigerator door. This will work for some people maybe about as well as locking the refrigerator works for some people.

But what I really want is a low effort app or modification to the software that will let me program time outs or delays or other attention sucks. Do you know of a project to develop a genereric all purpose solution you can instal on any electronic device that lets you share and manage your distractions from one central control panel? I’m thinking why can’t I just tell SIRI or Alexa “hold all my text messages that aren’t from priority contacts for the next hour”? Why is it so hard and difficult to just place things on hold and schedule my time reading texts and other things automatically with a computer program? A human secretary does this kind of work for the boss and screens calls and messages so is that such a difficult thing to automate?

Also, I’m curious to hear what you found here:

I have tested Yondr’s effects on mind-wandering in classroom experiments with Dan Smilek of the University of Waterloo Vision and Attention Lab.

Have you published the results?

Hi Steve. You might be interested in a Toronto startup called flipd:

Might not be exactly what you need, but it’s worth checking out.


Haven’t published them yet. We’re just finishing a study this semester with a fairly large class, and we’re waiting to get those results. I’ll post them here when they come out.

@Marcel, yep that’s what I wanted. Thanks for finding.

Hey Steve,
You can email me:, I’ve just been made aware of this thread.

Thanks for email link, but my time is worth only approx $2/hr so I don’t buy things if that’s what the email is for. I like your app and it would suit my needs if I had a smart phone and devices capable of using it and I could afford it. I have a free but low quality Obama phone and cell plan. I don’t use my smart phone much personally and just commented because I thought I had an idea worth peoples time to read.

However, I could offer you some marketing advice for your product if you want that for free. Your product claims to save time or improve the quality of time. BUT you don’t add any metrics or sell your product in units of time, here’s metrics and sales prices you should consider to make more money.

Time Value Accounting Metrics for price tag (suggestions)
Average User satisfaction rating for all time spent using product (include learning and buying) 150%
average number of hours using the product 10 hrs
average value for purchasing product = 50% profit X 10 hours = 5 hours value for customer as a result of purchase.

Time Value Accounting price and cost calculations:
Cost is 2 hours of your time converted into dollars based on your $/hr rate (must include pay stub or verify hourly rate if under $10/hr) for example.
2hrs x $10/hr = $20 price tag. ( 5hrs value x $10 = $50 time savings value)
2hrs x $50/hr = $100 price tag ( 5hrs value x $50 = $250 time savings value)
2hrs x $25/hr = $50 price tag ( 5hrs value x $25 = $125 time savings value)