Makers of Crowdfunded “Gravity Blanket” Withdraw Unsupported Medical Claims


“Gravity blanket” on Kickstarter that claimed to use cozy pressure to treat anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other conditions has been taking the internet by storm, raising more than $3 million. But on Thursday, the company quietly deleted the bold medical claims on its crowdfunding site — language that violated Kickstarter policy and went against FDA recommendations — after STAT inquired about its promotional statements.

The creators of Gravity call their product a “premium-grade, therapeutic weighted blanket” intended to treat psychiatric illnesses. People quickly snuggled up to the idea: More than 15,000 donors contributed to the Kickstarter campaign to help get the blanket to the market, where it’s projected to sell for as much as $279.

A slew of publications have touted the product with headlines such as, “I Want This Anti-Anxiety Blanket and You Will Too.” But the science behind the blanket’s claims is scarce— as STAT found by reviewing the studies the manufacturer cites as evidence for its claims.


The Kickstarter campaign made big promises: “The science behind Gravity reveals that it can be used to treat a variety of ailments, including insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, as well as circumstantial stress and prolonged anxiety.”

But on Thursday afternoon, that language was swapped to say the blanket could be “used” for those conditions, rather than treat them. Then, the section disappeared entirely. The makers haven’t posted an update about the changes for their buyers.

The blanket’s creators didn’t respond to a request for comment. After STAT inquired about the campaign with Kickstarter, the site said it asked the Gravity team to change the language because it wasn’t in line with their rules on health claims.

A screen capture of the Gravity Kickstarter page before the language was changed.

Gravity isn’t the type of product regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. However, FDA recommendations released in July 2016 laid out clear guidelines for promoting wellness products, which are low-risk items designed to support a healthy lifestyle.

They can be marketed as supporting people who live with anxiety. They shouldn’t claim that a product can treat an anxiety disorder.

The marketing language also appeared to violate Kickstarter’s rules. The crowdfunding site prohibits campaigns for “any item claiming to cure, treat, or prevent an illness or condition.” Kickstarter has previously said that the rule was developed out of concern that medical claims could have “harmful consequences” for consumers.

Regardless of how it’s promoted, the evidence behind the product is scarce.

It’s not a miracle therapy,” said Dr. Khalid Ismail, a sleep medicine researcher at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. “I don’t think it’s ready for prime time yet.”

Weighted blankets simulate the feeling of a big hug. The creators say it’s similar to swaddling a newborn baby, but with a much higher price tag. They claim that the increased weight — also known as deep touch pressure stimulation — can increase serotonin and melatonin levels while driving down cortisol, a stress hormone, “all without filling a prescription.”

It’s not a novel concept: Weighted blankets have been used in children with autism and elderly individuals with dementia. You can even buy them with a lower price tag from home goods stores.

What’s new is that they’re trying to broaden the indication for its use,” said Ismail. 

But the research they cite falls short of the hype.

One study looked at the use of weighted blankets, among other products, in a “sensory room” in an inpatient psychiatric unit. The researchers studied 75 people who used that room and concluded that those who tried the blanket reported a decrease in their anxiety and distress. But there was also a decrease in those symptoms among people who didn’t get under the blanket. And the study wasn’t blinded, so people might’ve reported positive effects because they were led to expect the blanket would have a positive effect.

Another study touted by Gravity’s creators found that 63 percent of individuals who used a 30-pound weighted blanket had reduced symptoms of anxiety. But the research included only 32 adults and no control group.

The creators of the blanket did not respond to a request for comment.

Ismail said it isn’t clear who, exactly, the blanket would benefit. Many cases of sleeplessness result from poor sleep hygiene, like being glued to a phone before bed; others result from underlying psychiatric disorders that require treatment.

It might have a role, but in a very, very small subset of patients,” Ismail said, “and I don’t think we’ve identified that subset of patients with a really good randomized controlled trial.” 

The campaign says it expects to start shipping blankets in October.

This post has been updated with information about new changes to the Kickstarter page.

via Hacker News

Free Loaders: Building tiny towns with a Little Land

If anyone is reading this, I need your help. The apocalyptic thunderstorm happening in the clouds above me has already knocked out the power once, and there’s no telling when it might happen again, so I must write quickly, even it makes this opening paragraph sound like the last note written by a doomed character in Prey. I’ve collected some free games, please take them to safety and play the ones you think are neat. You can find them in the locker. The code is 1234.

Little Lands by Robin Field and Billy Hobson

Teeny weeny town clicker. Randomise the landscape (or create your own island) then start constructing your colourful little town. The ultimate goal is to funnel enough resources from time to time into your shipyard, so that you may escape this listless existence in a “space boat to freedom”. But pirate ships will come and attack you from the coastal waters, because you are soft and squishy.

But maybe you can build those archery towers. Oh wait you need workers. Build a worker’s house, then. Oh wait you need wood. Build a lumberjack’s cabin! Oh wait you need stone. Build a quarry! Oh wait you need food. Do you see what is going on here? A tight wee game of resource management and adjacency bonuses. Don’t worry if the pirates chip away at the land, new tiles generate randomly over time, meaning the island is constantly (if slowly) growing. Important note: pressing ‘R’ does not rotate your buildings. It restarts your game. Learn from my mistakes, young free loader.

MOLOCH by Seemingly Pointless

Corporate interview OS. I bet you really want that sweet job as [shift manager] in the MOLOCH corporation. This test will see if you are good enough. Or, it’s supposed to. I did it myself and I am none the wiser as to my suitability for the role. And I was extra obedient too, and efficient! I was probably only responsible for about 40 casualties. I guess I’m just not what they’re looking for.

Murdercide 2017 by Powerhoof

“Soft-boiled” cyberpunk. There’s been a “murder-killing” and detective Murphy is being brought in to investigate. An old-fashioned point and click adventure made of good jokes, bad jokes and some awful jokes. Arguably the whole thing – the murder, the machines, the inventory puzzles – is one big set-up for the final, fatal punchline, which is a joke of Airplane! proportions. I like that the inner monologue is that of a rough and seasoned Chandleresque P.I. but the main character’s actual voice is goofy, loud-mouthed and incredibly annoying. It’s good that the whole disaster is wrapped up within 15 minutes, because I probably couldn’t stand to listen to him anymore.

Causeway by Yarn Spinner

Short banching choices walkabout. You dander along a sandy bank, finding messages in bottles about your life and making decisions about where to go next based on the signs ahead of you. You’ve left home, you see, following some unspoken altercation with your parents – anything after that is a series of binary decisions for you to make. Oh, it’s a CAUSEway. I get it. A literal geographical representation of whether the decision to laugh at a thoughtless joke or speak up for yourself might have an effect on your life (or maybe not as much of an effect as you’d hope). I got Good End and Mediocre End. I don’t know if there’s a Bad End. Play it and find out for me, willya?

Carrocalipse by Pedro Paiva

Like Frogger, but filled with FILTHY COMMUNISM!

Depthgun by Leafo

Intenstinal shooter. Sphincter status: critical.

via Rock, Paper, Shotgun

If Art History Icons Were Hipsters

What if the Mona Lisa got tired of her old silk robes and decided to trade them in for a trendy jumpsuit? That’s exactly the kind of scenario Japanese graphic designer Shusaku Takaoka specialises in bringing to life, and he does it with pure wit.

More info: Instagram (h/t: boredpanda)

Takaoka is an expert at turning history into hipster. His works hilariously transform some of the classical art world’s most iconic faces into modern city slickers, and we actually wouldn’t be surprised if we saw any of these made-over canvas characters chilling on the subway, or strutting the latest trends on Broadway. But Takaoka didn’t stop there – he’s also reimagined them as movie stars, magazine covers, and even baristas.

via DYT. Design is all around us.

Aerial Pictures of London by Night

Jason Hawkes, photographe aérien dont nous avions déjà partager le travail sur New York, nous présente sa nouvelle série nocturne. Installé à Londres, il survole la ville en hélicoptère et réalise de superbes clichés. En prenant un peu de hauteur, le photographe nous fait découvrir les lumières de la capitale britannique sous un autre angle. A découvrir dans la galerie d’images.

via Fubiz

Russia Has Weaponized Fake News To Sow Chaos

“This is a classic disinformation piece, trying to demonize the United States and NATO deployments with distorted figures,” says Ben Nimmo, a fellow at the Digital Forensic Research Lab run by the Atlantic Council. “It shows that there’s really a globalized market for fake stories. They don’t have to be credible or local—they just have to have the right tone.”

Such tactics were pioneered during the Cold War, as the Soviet Union worked covertly to influence political dialogue in the West. From KGB rezidenturas scattered around the world, a small division called Service A planted false stories in newspapers, spread rumors, and worked to stir up racial tensions. In 1964, a KGB front group helped Joachim Joesten, a former Newsweek reporter, publish a sprawling conspiracy theory about John F. Kennedy’s assassination, which later became the basis for Oliver Stone’s JFK. In 1983, Russian operatives planted a story in a small Indian newspaper claiming that the U.S. government had manufactured the AIDS virus at a military facility in Fort Detrick, Maryland—and Soviet wire services then trumpeted the story all over the world. As U.S. officials later explained in a report to Congress, “This allows the Soviets to claim that they are just repeating stories that have appeared in the foreign press.”

The internet has enabled the Kremlin to weaponize such tactics, making propaganda easier to manufacture and quicker to disseminate than any guided missile or act of espionage. Russian operations like the Internet Research Agency have employed hundreds of bloggers to mass-produce disinformation in the form of misleading tweets, Facebook posts, and comments on web sites ranging from The Huffington Post to Fox News. “Since at least 2008,” Peter Pomerantsev, a Russian media expert, observes, “Kremlin military and intelligence thinkers have been talking about information not in the familiar terms of ‘persuasion,’ ‘public diplomacy,’ or even ‘propaganda,’ but in weaponized terms, as a tool to confuse, blackmail, demoralize, subvert, and paralyze.”

Some of the most unsuspecting targets are American conservatives. During the Cold War, the KGB worked almost exclusively with leftist groups around the world—labor unions, socialist newspapers, and other organizations sympathetic to the communist cause. With the fall of the Soviet Union, however, Russia morphed into an equal opportunity meddler that seeks to inflame everyone from Bernie bros to Trump deplorables. “The point of an influence campaign is to get people involved who wouldn’t otherwise be involved,” J.M. Berger, a fellow at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, recently told ABC News. “A lot of people in the alt-right would not necessarily characterize themselves as being pro-Russian, but they’re receiving influence from this campaign.”

According to Clint Watts, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute who tracks the Kremlin’s digital propaganda, Russia began targeting American audiences more aggressively in late 2014. Two news outlets on the Kremlin payroll, RT and Sputnik, churned out stories about chaos among Black Lives Matter protesters and tensions during the Bundy Ranch standoff in Oregon. They also worked to undermine Clinton, fearing she would take a firm stance on Russian aggression in Ukraine. Russia’s network of online “hecklers” and conspiratorial web sites then spread these Kremlin-financed stories through the internet, inflaming American conservatives. “This is the pattern,” Nimmo says. “Vilifying and amplifying. You find unflattering information, and you get all the other parts of the machine to amplify the message.”