Explainer: 8 high-tech ways to curb your New Year's Eve drunkenness

  • Karin Hildebrand Lau  /

    This New Year’s Eve, many of us will raise a toast or two to the dawn of 2011, and afterward we might feel inspired to contact exes, bosses or others with whom it's best not to communicate while under the influence.

    Fortunately, a number of services, apps and tricks exist to help curb our drunken enthusiasm. Here is a New Year’s countdown of eight of them, from social media sobriety tests to cell phone breathalyzers.

  • The Social Media Sobriety Test

    Internet security firm Webroot recently came out with a Firefox plug-in called the Social Media Sobriety Test — because, as the company notes, "nothing good happens online after 1 a.m."

    Users select the "hours of intoxication" during which they will have to pass tests in order to log on to social media sites they frequent, including Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Flickr.

    The challenges are fashioned after the style of the roadside tests police officers administer to suspected drunken drivers. For example, a test can be to keep a cursor inside a moving circle for a period of time.

  • Apps that block calls

    John Genest

    A surgical approach to thwarting late-night embarrassment is to simply block outgoing calls, texts and e-mails to the person — or persons — whom you, in a sober state during the wee hours, would know not to holler at.

    At least two iPhone apps, the Bad Decision Blocker (shown above) and Don't Dial!, do this service over Apple's smart phone.

    With the former, app owners can prohibit all contact attempts to one or more people for a specified chunk of time. In this way, you can "protect yourself from yourself," as the app's description notes.

    Don't Dial! adds another level of control: Users can select a Designated Dialer who sets a password that must be entered before reaching out to banned contacts.

  • Blood-alcohol content calculator apps


    In the spirit of "knowledge is power," some applications try to help you gauge just how hammered you are. The working theory is that you might then second-guess the impulse to, say, booty-call an ex.

    These apps have boring, descriptive names such as the Blood Alcohol Content Calculator as well as amusing names like R-U-Buzzed? (shown above).

    Simply find or input your weight, the number of hours you've been hitting the sauce, and what kinds and number of beverages have been involved. The apps will then estimate your blood-alcohol content (BAC), which is the metric relied on for legal and medical purposes in establishing a person's intoxication.

    In the U.S., the BAC limit for drivers over 21 years of age is 0.08 percent, but take note that other criminal and liability thresholds vary per state. Regardless, that level is probably a good rule of thumb for knowing when to say when with regards to drunk dialing and texting.

  • Cell phone breathalyzers

    Other phone features go even further in trying to keep you from mortifying yourself. Though they are no longer sold, a few years ago LG came out with cell phones such as the LG-LP4100 that actually included a built-in breathalyzer.

    Users would blow into a small hole on the phone, and if the results revealed tipsiness, an onscreen warning would show a swerving car taking out some traffic cones (hint, hint). Phone owners could also set their phone to disallow calls to those certain someones upon scoring a specified BAC.

    Although built-in breathalyzers have gone away, the handy devices still exist as accessories that plug right into handsets. A company called Blow Zero offers the iB.A.C. Breathalyzer for the iPhone and also sells various breathalyzers as standalone gadgets.

    Meanwhile, another such accessory, the iBreath (video above) for the iPhone and iPod just ended its sales run a week and a half ago.

  • E-mail gatekeeper


    Google Mail Goggles, an entertainingly named feature — they must be teasing "beer goggles," right? — makes you crunch some numbers before firing off an e-mail.

    Google Mail Goggles assumes that if you're alcoholically impaired you will not be up to the task of doing some math, or that the sheer effort might discourage you from following through with the questionable e-mail.

    This Gmail feature can be configured under the "Labs" tab for any time span of the day, for whenever the hankering for math (or the likelihood of being 'faced) is most keen.

  • Special number to block calls

    Karin Hildebrand Lau  /

    For those in the Land Down Under, there's another ingenious way to avoid a regrettable phone call while sloshed.

    Carrier Virgin Mobile offers a "Dialing Under the Influence" service: Dial 333 plus the phone number of a person you shouldn't be ringing up, and all calls to that number are blocked until 6 o’clock the following morning.

    For the weak-willed — or in an emergency — dialing 333CLEAR will remove the temporary blacklisting. (As you might convince yourself that calling a particular someone at 3 in the morning is imperative, perhaps it's best not to memorize the safe word.)

    Making inebriated calls is hardly a uniquely American phenomenon: The Australian mobile provider Telstra did a survey in 2009 in which half of the respondents living in the Sydney metro area admitted to either drunk dialing or texting an ex-partner. A similar amount of people copped to contacting a family member while boozing and saying something inappropriate.

  • Family-plan restrictions


    Family calling-plan features can be repurposed to protect your sober Jekyll from your wasted Hyde.

    T-Mobile, for example, has Family Allowances as an addition to its family calling plans. The service includes the option of setting "Never Allowed" phone numbers (see upper right in the image) that, as the name implies, cannot be received as calls and cannot be dialed from selected handsets.

    Family values, indeed.

  • Self-destructing text messages


    One way to mitigate the damage your bacchanalian alter ego might wreak is to use TigerText. This app makes text messages expire after a time limit set by you. That means the text will be deleted from your phone, the receiver's phone, and — according to the TigerText company — its servers as well.

    Another TigerText option is to tag texts as "Delete on Read," which gives the text a minute of life once it's opened on a receiver's phone before it destroys itself.

    In this way, TigerText lets you "cover your tracks" and avoid being blackmailed or humiliated by the private texts you shouldn't have sent. (The TigerText app's name was already chosen before Tiger Woods' sex scandal broke late last year, which included leaks of his racy texts with mistresses.)

    And with that final thought, TechNewsDaily wishes you a happy and safe New Year’s.

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