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Interview with Hyperalarm

Techmog is a liquid network of engineers, programmers, designers and entrepreneurs in and around London who report on the industry we work in, from an insider's view. We're always looking for Londoners with something interesting to say. Send an email to info@techmog.com if you would like to contribute to the website.

Peter Bailey

Freelance Wordpress Developer in London (peabay.xyz) @peabay
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What is Hyperalarm?

Hyperalarm was first dreamt up by two of our team members, founder and CEO Ion Curves Mons and “technology ninja” Chema Diez del Corral. As self-professed gadget geeks, the two were brainstorming new smart products that could form part of the rising Internet of Things about a year ago. Though they had the idea of a smart alarm in mind, they brought in a diverse group of people, including designers, architects, writers, to independently generate ideas for IoT objects that they thought could be valuable. Luckily, the group also came up with the idea of a smart alarm for heavy sleepers, and so the Hyperalarm project was born.

The actual Hyperalarm process is pretty simple: from the Hyperalarm app on your iPhone or Android phone, you set the distance and time of your choice. The distance refers to how far you have to walk in order to deactivate the alarm in the morning, anywhere from 0 to 20 meters. (We included zero for those days when getting out of bed to turn off the alarm might be inconvenient, for example if a guest is staying at your house.) This is the key feature of the Hyperalarm, as it forces you to get out of bed.

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We’ve read lots of studies about how the two most important factors to waking up are light and motion, so the idea is that by making you get up and moving (ideally into a room more well-lit than your bedroom) Hyperalarm can help even the heaviest sleeper wake up. Another cool feature of the Hyperalarm is that a notification will pop up on your phone if  your Hyperalarm does’t have enough battery to make it through the night, thereby eliminating the possibility of your Hyperalarm failing you while you’re asleep. Fool-proof!

Hyperalarm’s form is beautiful. Tell us about the design process and materials used.

The initial inspiration behind the form of the design was the concept of wave. Our brainwaves change throughout the different sleep stages, similar, in a way, to musical notes; the low frequency waves like a deeply penetrating drum beat, while the higher frequency brainwaves are like a subtle high pitched flute. This union between the concept of brainwaves and sound waves gave birth to Hyperalarm prototypes of various forms, many of which very ribbed and twisted. Eventually we opted for a design that was a bit more practical, unifying form and function in a way that preserved the “wave” lines but also worked comfortably with the contour of the human hand.

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What’s inside Hyperalarm?

The hardware under the hood is mainly comprised of Atmel’s atmega32U4 microprocessors. They’ve been great about helping us publicize the product and love the product.

The alarm is plastic, but the prototypes were all hand-painted by a local artist using a dappling method to give them an extra texture and feeling. We have to color options currently, the dappled white and the sunrise yellow, and if the project is successful the artist will put the final hand-made detail on all of the dappled white models.

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The frequencies were selected by our musician and sound designer. So, though the frequencies have to be above a certain threshold in order to effectively wake up the human brain, the composition and arrangement of different tones was his creation. He created three or four possibilities on which the entire team gave feedback, and we selected the final sound together. Throughout the life of the project the same artist will continue to develop future Hyperalarm sounds, weaving together the science and the aesthetic. (Creating a sound that is jarring enough to wake up a heavy sleeper but pleasant enough so that you don’t throw the Hyperalarm out the window is quite a difficult balance to achieve!)

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One of the biggest challenges was fitting all of the electronics inside the body. It was important to us to keep the Hyperalarm small and light enough to be picked up with one hand since we didn’t want it to be a cumbersome part of the morning routine. Our designer was always a big proponent of the spiral detail, but we had to play around with the exact dimensions through 3D-printed prototypes for a couple of weeks before we arrived at a final design that worked.

How will you handle upgrades?

User testing is built into our Indiegogo process. Backers that choose the “Beta Tester” perk will receive their Hyperalarms first, give us invaluable feedback and help us polish the product, and then receive a new Hyperalarm 2.0 that the rest of the backers will receive as well.

Posted 31st May 2015
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