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When fewer bells and whistles make technology new and different

Freewrite, from Astrohaus
Courtesy of Astrohaus
Freewrite, from Astrohaus

The Next Idea

If someone asked you to give up your smartphone, your tablet, your laptop, It’s likely you’d have a hard time agreeing to let go.

But as much as we revel in technology and all its bells and whistles, there is a growing awareness that the technology is controlling us.

The tail is wagging the dog.

That thinking has led a couple of Michiganders to come up with something that strips all this technology down to its purest form. No bells, no whistles, no distractions.

Adam Leeb and Patrick Paul have come up with a device they call Freewrite, a new tool for writers that blends technology old and new.

Leeb joined us today to talk about the device, and whether we might see more of these streamlined, single-purpose pieces of technology in the future.

Many of us have experienced this when we open up our laptop or tablet: The goal is to get some work done, but there are just so many things fighting for our attention. 

"We typically open [a laptop or tablet] up and quickly are bombarded by the other things that are going on in our life, whether that's an email notification or Twitter or other social media," said Leeb.  "I think everyone has had the experience that when it's time to sit down and work, there's a lot of other things that are pulling at us. If you think about it, all these other companies, whether it's Facebook or Instagram or Twitter ... they're really engineering their product to be as distracting as possible because they want people to be using it as much as they can. So that's their whole aim is to be constantly interrupting us."

There are plenty of software and apps that can help writers stay focused by doing things like turning off your wi-fi access, blocking social media notifications, or even prevents you from backspacing. This distraction-free software was where the idea for the Freewriter was born. The device gives you all of the features of that distraction-free software and merges it with hardware (pictured above) to minimize those distractions.

Listen to the full conversation below to hear how the Freewrite works and some of the challenges we face when it comes to the constant distraction in this digital world we live in. 


The Next Ideais Michigan Radio’s project devoted to new innovations and ideas that will change our state.

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