Korean engineers have developed an app to help with smartphone dependency. Its programmed locking system makes the phone unusable.
Professor Uichin Lee of KAIST (the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) has developed a mobile app called Lock n' LoL which helps give people a break from their smartphones.
The app is meant to prevent people from using their phones during meetings or in social situations.
Researchers say that people tend to overuse smartphones because of their habit of checking messages, e-mails and other online content such as status updates on social media.
On top of that, external stimuli, such as notification alarms, add to the distraction and hamper group interaction.
The app enables users to create a room or join an existing room. They can then invite meeting participants or friends to the room, and tell them the name of the group to activate Group Limit (lock) mode.
When the phones are locked in this way, all alarms and notifications are automatically muted.
Users must ask for permission to unlock their phones. Access to phones is allowed for five minutes every hour for emergencies.
With the intent of changing behaviour, the app detects nearby users to encourage minimised phone use.
Lock n' LoL also provides statistical data such as the current week's total limit time, the average weekly usage time, top friends ranked by time spent together and top activities in which the users participated.
The researchers tested the app for one month on a student campus with 1,000 participants.
The experiment showed that the students accumulated 10,000 hours of free time by using the app. They said they were more focused on their group activities.
The researchers hope to provide a solution to the issues of mobile distraction and addiction which they say have become a major problem in society.
"This app will certainly help family members to interact more with each other during the holiday season," Lee said.