Ring Alarm Clock - Great start, not quite done...

From designer Meng Fandi (and via The Product Usability Weblog), the "Ring" alarm clock for couples is a great concept, but not quite fleshed out to a usable state. The basic idea is that instead of waking users with sound, it wakes them with a wireless vibrating ring worn on a finger during sleep. This not only allows couples to wake up one at a time without disturbing the other with a room-filling alarm sound, but also helps out deaf or hard-of-hearing users by working through a different sense than hearing. Even the form of the charging and time-setting base assists usability by taking the form of a bed, so each member of the couple knows to use the ring on the side of the bed they (usually) sleep on. Good stuff!

...But it's not quite done. Just a couple of issues come to mind. First, this design is a slave to button-reduced "clean-design," and as a result can only offer criminally inefficient setting of alarm times: a single up/down button pair take quite a while to reach an exact time that's, say, 12 hours away from the previously set time! (I've been waiting for a numeric keypad on an alarm clock for quite a while now - but it's too many buttons to please the eye, even if they would sooo please the hand...) Second, the mechanical feasibility of this concept, as it currently looks, strains credulity. It's sleek and beautiful, but there's no room for a battery, wireless transceiver, and vibrating motor in a ring that size. My engineering intuition is screaming here, accusing this design of writing a cosmetic check that it just can't cash. In the real-world product development cycle, this sleek look would bulge so much as to lose its cool, becoming a bastardization of its intended beauty. Instead, industrial designers should be starting with the constraints of reality and progressing to a beautiful solution based on what is actually feasible. Pushing the limits a bit is okay; claiming an impossible slimness is not!

11 comments:

Aramor said...

Just some thoughts on the clock as I am a huge fan of aesthetically pleasing engineering. Wireless would have a few problems, for example if the user rolled over onto their hand chances are good the alarm won't go off. Why not have it have its own internal clock and is set at the base only via bluetooth (very small form factor for short range bluetooth) or must be cradled to be set. Also to keep buttons to a minimum most of the time people get up at the same time or within a small range of times. But for more options could have a flat numeric pad on the underside as to not change the look of it.

Gildas said...

They might want to leverage existing technologies and abstract this to work with anything such as a any bluetooth or wireless device that can receive a signal (e.g., http://www.netpcdirect.co.uk/bluetooth_vibrating_bracelet.php)

In that way it can be extended beyond the limited imagination and limited creativity of a single designer.

Anonymous Coward said...

all i have to say is "morning glory"

Dave Gustafson said...

Aramor, from a technological point of view, I like your suggestion that the clock be internal to the ring; that'd eliminate the need to keep a wireless connection all the time, which would require a bigger battery and a wireless module. However, I'd take it one step further and suggest that there be no wireless connection at all - when the ring is placed in its base, it both charges and synchronizes time and alarm settings with the base.

And Gildas, the suggestion to open the interface to work with any accessory is a good one, too! Power-users (like me, and you, I suspect) love to customize their products like that...

Anonymous said...

Asthetically the rings are nice, but rarely do I come across couples that can wear rings of similar sizes... Most rings also have a "bulge" of some sort, and people actually find that pleasing (think diamonds here), so a bulge encasing the vibrator may not be objectionable. For the truly bulky ring look, we could go with a multi-finger ring, ala brass knuckles. pow!

Dave Gustafson said...

Good point, that there are very few couples who wear the same size ring - at least on the same finger. I suppose I could wear mine on my pinky and my fiancee on her thumb? As for the bulge, I've got to believe that people like ring bulges for what they are (the diamonds!) rather than for the sake of having a bulge. So, make the vibrator motor look like a gem and you're set! And that brass knuckles suggestion - pow indeed! :-) One thought I hadn't had before: why not just make this whole product a set of bracelets, instead of rings? Hmm...

Deadl0ck said...

This is actually a quite feasable design.

If you look at the crosssection of the ring, you will notice that it has a thicker base, with at the bottom two even thicker areas. Add to those a tiny line of electro magnets, a tiny ballbearing, and a tiny battery, when alarm time comes, a microchip on a flexible print (similar to what has been used for ages already in keyboards) alternates the magnets, so the ball starts sliding back and forth, and you have vibration. as for the wireless connection, looking at my dissasembled bluetooth USB stick, the contents are so tiny that they would most likely fit in the thicker part of that ring, and I am quite sure that they don't use the smallest available technology for a 15 euro bluetooth dongle.

Add 2 little chargepoints to the thicker part, to connect it on the base / charger, and you're set.

Cornick said...

I can only imagine. Nice one!

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Anonymous said...

I think I'd use a bracelet instead of a ring, maybe even of a somewhat flexible material. It would be more comfortable that way. And on a bracelet, you might be able to add a small display to check the time during those middle-of-the-night awakenings. No need to disturb your partner by rolling over to check the main display. If you put buttons on the bracelet, you could also add an extra waking function with a watch... Require a specific (and randomly generated) button combination every morning to turn the alarm off. Just a few concepts...

Dave Gustafson said...

Okay, now that we've come to the idea of a pair of vibrating bracelets rather than rings (for engineering feasibility), and added a clock display to each (to check the time in the middle of the night), it sounds to me like this product has become a pair of specialized sleeping watches! But that's not a bad idea, is it? Make them comfortable - silicone and fuzziness - and dock the watches in the morning to turn off the alarm, charge, and set the time for the next morning. Very, very nice - this is something I'd buy!

Anonymous said...

For the up/down buttons to adjust time - why don't you try an "analog" clock where if you move the small hand, the hour changes, etc...?