microsoft shock
Are customers ready for wearables that shock them? According to a new patent, Microsoft thinks so. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Microsoft has filed a patent application for a wearable device that can shock users when a notification comes through. When a wearer sets an alarm, the company plans to deliver the tech equivalent of a bucket of water over the head by electrocuting them awake.

The patent is called "wearable computer having a skin-stimulating interface," specifically describing this stimulation as electrical. The abstract lists text messages, phone calls and alarm clocks as examples of the sorts of things the device could shock people over. "Techniques are described herein that are capable of providing electrical stimuli to skin of a user to convey information to the user," the application reads.

The Apple Watch, the wearable device from Cupertino, taps people on the wrist to inform them about events. Some users have complained that the taps are too light, making them easy to miss throughout the day, and there have been reports of problems with the first batch of deliveries not working well. The patent explains that vibrations like these can be missed, for example, when working with heavy machinery.

Another approach taken is Google Glass, which places a heads-up display between the wearer and the world. This is mentioned in the patent application as not being ideal, as there have been concerns that wearers might be filming the person they are speaking to in secret.

Microsoft's solution would put any fears of missing a notification to bed, presumably before promptly shocking them awake again. The patent suggests several ways the device could be worn, such as inside a T-shirt or shoe, but using an electrical stimulus would mean Microsoft wouldn't have to depend on a vibrating motor or obtrusive display to notify wearers.

The question is whether the public will take kindly to being shocked on a regular basis. There are some big questions over the way this would work. Would it interfere with pacemakers? How would the body react to such stimulus on a regular basis? And is the world really ready to sign up for daily electrocutions?