Panasonic has invented a cubicle for your face

Just like a thoroughbred.
Just like a thoroughbred.
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Open-plan offices are distracting. They’re anxiety-producing. But what if you could work distraction-free, limited from seeing anything beyond your central vision? What if this private space could travel with you and block out others wherever you work, be it at a busy office, a noisy coffee shop, or your own kitchen table?

What if you had a cubicle . . . on your face?

Panasonic, the company that pioneered the DVD and the deodorizing hanger, is working now to make that dream a reality. In partnership with Japanese designer Kunihiko Morinaga, Panasonic’s Future of Life design studio has a prototype product called Wear Space. The gray eyeshield blocks the wearer’s peripheral vision and contains a pair of Bluetooth headphones, so that the wearer can isolate himself visually and aurally from the surrounding world.

Panasonic brought a prototype of Wear Space to SXSW in May, the website Engadget reported. The project now has a crowdfunding site aiming to raise ¥15 million (about $134,000) to produce the headsets. Wear Spaces will ship next year to these early backers in Japan, designer Akihiro Adachi told Quartz, after which the studio will consider mass production.

Several commenters have pointed out that Wear Space is, in appearance and function, a human equivalent of the blinkers that racehorses wear to keep them from getting spooked or distracted during races.

Without an actual Wear Space to test, we looked to horse racing literature for more answers. How does limiting the field of vision affect an elite thoroughbred at the peak of its physical performance—and will it translate to humans going tippity-tap on the keyboard at work?

“Blinkers keep horses from seeing what nature meant them to see, which is just about everything,” the Daily Racing Forum wrote in 2013. “The hood’s effects are varied and not always easy to predict. They can turn an anxious horse docile, a docile horse anxious. They can cure bad habits and create new ones.”

“With blinkers, you’re changing a few millennia of evolution,” trainer Josh Gosden was quoted as saying.

And perhaps most damning of all:

“I had no temptation to ever put blinkers on Rachel Alexandra or Curlin,” said trainer Steve Asmussen of two famous prizewinning horses he conditioned. “I think true competitors want to see what’s coming.”