Pavlok Gets A Literally Shocking Teardown

Apparently, there is a wrist-mounted device that delivers electric shocks to the wearer when it receives the appropriate command over Bluetooth. No, it’s not part of some kind of house arrest program. If you can believe it, the gadget is actually intended to help break bad habits or wake up exceptionally deep sleepers. We don’t know which of those problems [Becky Stern] has, but we’re glad to see she decided to take hers apart before the 21st century self-flagellation started.

Called the Pavlok and available for $180 USD from various online retailers, the device looks like a chunky fitness tracker. But in place of the screen that would show you how many steps you’ve taken or your current heart rate, there’s a lighting bolt button that you can press when you want to shock yourself. With the smartphone application, you can control the device remotely with a handy desktop widget that allows you to select the intensity of the shock. No, we aren’t making any of this up. Check out the video after the break to see it in action.

When [Becky] tried to take the Pavlok apart, she found that it was nearly impossible to handle it without inadvertently triggering a shock. So until she could get the case open and physically disconnect the battery, all she could do was turn the intensity down in the application and work through the occasional jolts from the device. We can only hope that more devices don’t adopt a similar sense of self-preservation.

Once inside she found mainly the same kind of hardware you’d expect in a standard, non-masochistic, fitness wearable. There’s a nRF52832 Bluetooth SoC, a MMA8451Q accelerometer, a PCF85063A I2C RTC, and a FXAS21002C gyroscope. What you’re somewhat less likely to find inside your FitBit however is the LPR6235 coupled inductor and beefy capacitors which are used to build up a high-voltage charge from the standard 3.7 V LiPo battery.

We’ve been very interested in the recent projects which are creating custom firmwares for commercially available fitness wearables, as it could be an express route to a hacker-friendly smartwatch. While the Pavlok has some compelling hardware, and the programming header [Becky] identified looks interesting, we don’t like the idea of being one misplaced if statement away from riding the lightning.

35 thoughts on “Pavlok Gets A Literally Shocking Teardown

    1. Those need more range so they tend to not be running bluetooth or wifi. Also their business depends on people not thinking of them as punishment devices (optimal setting is supposed to be at a setting that’s noticeable but below painful). So I can almost guarantee that only a knockoff company with no brand to protect would sell these boards for human use.

    2. I do not know. The only dog training device I’ve seen had a large two pin physical jumper connector that needs to be removed and replaced (a manual reset) after abuse by cruel dog owners (or a fault). If they held the remote shock button for more than 3 seconds the collar would fully disabled itself.

  1. While amusing, getting shocked while disassembling the device is easily mitigated by some rubber cleaning or even regular latex or gloves. I’d be tempted to think this omission is for the sake of entertainment, but the section doesn’t seem to be spun out unnecessarily.

  2. When are they releasing a Wii game / accessory bundle that zaps the user as the leather wrapped controller is whipped in the air?
    “World of Domination – the BDSM Collector’s Edition”

    1. A friend and I went to the Computer Games Museum in Berlin years ago and got to play on their PainStation. It’s a Pong table, where your right hand uses a dial to move the paddle and the tips and heel of your left hand have to hold down two metal blocks, palm-down. If you let a ball through a motorised plastic whip whacks your left hand, or you get an electric shock through the metal blocks. First one to lift their hand off the blocks loses, and as the game goes on the shocks and whipping get worse. It was actually incredible fun, we were laughing so hard we could barely breathe, and making a videogame act in the physical world was a great way to ramp up the tension.

      Imagine Mario Kart with one of these…

    1. If you want to shock yourself, (while away from your workbench anyway) remove the igniter from a depleted butane cigarette lighter.

      Actually, a friend of mine was advised by his doctor to use one to stimulate nerve re-growth in his arm.
      (I don’t recall what happened to him to get that “prescription”)

    2. You could buy a $2 LPR6235-752SMR 1 to 100 turn step-up transformer from mouser and build your own circuit around it.

      Or you could buy a (flashing/vibrating/buzzing/shocking) dog collar with remote control from ebay/ali and mod that if the range of 800 meter (~2600′) is enough and the price of about 11 bucks for the collar and the same price for the three channel remote. But you would probably need to limit the output current a bit more, as well if using on a human, because typically we do not have fur around our necks.

      1. i had made my own version of a pavlok using the modifying a dog collar method the issue with it is they arent built for comfort due to the prongs meant to go through fur. also putting it your neck isnt great either its best to just hook it onto a arm or leg less dangerous. a level 1 on a amazon shockcollar is a about a level 4 pavlok shock though under 4 you can hardly feel it any ways. the nice thing about the pavlok is it doesnt use prongs it uses 2 plates so way more comfortable since the main selling point of it is to be able to sleep with it on to use it as a alarm clock.

  3. Reminds me of the British show “Brainiac” where one of the crazy things they’d do was hook people up to a zapper and have them try to complete various tasks while being periodically zapped.

      1. I was thinking about a game of “electric trivia”. You have a buzzer and are hooked up to a zapper. The host would read a question, and after he presses a button you have 5 seconds to press the buzzer and answer the question. Guess correctly, and everyone else gets zapped. Answer wrong, and you are the onliest one to get zapped. Note though, that if you guess wrong, the timer will reset until someone yells the right answer!

      1. I have two (partial) orders with Banggood, one from Early November, and another from January 3, that I have not received. That tempers my enthusiasm for ordering anything else from them.

        1. A *lot* of stuff Banggood lists as “in stock” are actually backordered. Expect a month delay between you ordering something and them actually shipping it.

          But they will happily let the order sit unfullfilled indefinitely if they have a problem getting the item in, and only admit the situation if you raise a ticket about it. Or they’ll “accidentally” replace it with a random other item of a similar value. But that’s only happened to me once out of a bunch of orders.

          As long as you don’t get conned into paying extra for express shipping, and can be patient, you’ll usually make out okay – but don’t trust them for anything time critical.

          Also, right now the new coronavirus is playing major havoc with everything inside of China, so shipping is likely to be a mess for at least the next couple of months independently of everything I said above.

          1. Everything is SNAFU for 2 weeks around the Chinese new year anyway. So the virus on top of that is really gonna throw a wrench in it. Everyone needing to travel and maybe not allowed to etc.

  4. I happen to have one, but after a while I quit using it. Although it’s a great device, and a great way to punish someone for not doing what they are supposed to do, i feel like the “slap on the wrist” did not work as well as I hoped… In fact, after a while you simply didn’t feel the shock anymore.

    What I did notice was that my wife loved it. As soon as I did not reply fast enough to her messages, she would simply go on the website and give me a nice random jolt… Just because I did not reply fast enough. Pavlov would have loved this device…

  5. Incidentally you should be aware that even low level shocks can be dangerous: some people have pacemakers etc and more recently inplanted insulin dispensers.

    1. thoose are an exception not the rule. it would be better to have posted if. if you have a pacemaker or inplanted islunin dispenser you shouldnt use this. though at least during regular use the shock travels across a inch of skin on your wrist. so the only chance to get near the device your talking about youd have to hold it with both hands out of its silicon band so it would cross the chest.

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