The Reverse Alarm Clock hits a real world problem of keeping young children in bed when they should be sleeping, and helping them wake up more naturally.
The working prototype grew out of a lengthy design process — including cognitive walk-throughs & field-studies. It has received media attention and email requests from all over the world to purchase a Reverse Alarm Clock.
The working prototype in the field showed that the system succeeds in decreasing the number of awakenings for the young children. Sally, one of the young users of the system, grew so attached to the product that when we came to pick up the clock, she was upset & complaining to her mother about why were taking it away from her.
Reverse alarm clock is a research project developed to address the morning stress of dual income families with young children. At the end of the project, I designed a conceptual interactive system for these families to keep children from waking their parents before the designated wake-up time. The goal of the clock is to bridge the home-PM and home-AM phases, to increase the parental role performance, and to increase the emotional and social quality of family life affecting the rest of the day. It also aims to ease the children’s life-stage transition, helping them to sleep in their own bed throughout the night and establishing a firmer divide between the children’s and the parents’ sleeping arrangements.
To realize these goals, the design provides the following: (i) the resources for repeated parental role performance; and resources for parents and children to participate in family ritual, (ii) increased parental competency over the complexities of the daily routine, (iii) increased child agency, and (iv) fewer nights of interrupted sleep for the parents.
RAC is designed to keep young children (2-4 years old) from waking their parents in the middle of the night. It tells time in a way that children can understand, using visual elements, such as stars, moon and sun, and audio elements, such as wakeup songs. The system has three states: bedtime, when the stars and moon are on; in-between, when only stars are on; and wakeup, when the sun is on; giving the child the ability to make good decisions, including leaving bed only after the in-between state.
RAC has four main stages to its development: understanding, conceiving, refinement, and communication. Understanding phase was an intense stage of brainstorming, literature review, and expert as well as onsite user interviews. The conceiving stage consists of two sub-stages, one of conceiving of ideas in a cross-cultural setting at a European university. This stage resolves in an art installation of the clock with three-dimensional representations. Based on the reflections from this study, the second conceiving took part in the US with a team of designers. A new systemic design is developed and assessed with a low-level prototype in a lab setting. Based on the feedback, a refinement stage takes place; a more deliberate and detailed system and its elements are developed. In the communication phase, a working prototype is developed and put in context in greater Pittsburgh area. Modes of transitions framework emerged from this long-lasting project with the research through design approach, addressing the routinely, performative, ritualistic, and narrative aspects of the system.
The sky display mimics a puppet theater with a starry background and two puppets: the moon and sun.
The controller lets parents set times for which the clock transitions to the in-between (moon set time, leaving the stage) and wake-up (sun rise time, entering the stage) states.
The treasure-chest music box lets the child select the music to play during the wake-up state, when the sun puppet enters the stage and it is time to get up and start the day.
The bed sensor pad detects the child’s presence on the bed. If the child leaves the bed during the in-between state (the moon has exited the stage, but the sun has yet to enter), the sensor pad transitions the clock to the wake-up state (sun enters and music plays).
For more details about the Reverse Alarm Clock, please visit the project blog.