Monday, July 12, 2010

Design Observation: WOW Alarm Clock!

Nothing beats a great alarm clock.
For centuries, this tiny little gadget that starts our day has undergone thousands of changes, big and small. And not for foolish reasons.

Alarm clocks dictate the tenor of our day, and if you’re serious about waking up, you’ve got to get a great alarm clock.

Fortunately, I love my alarm clock.
It’s simple.
It’s multi-functional.
It gets the work done.

Let me describe to you my normal night to day transition: First, I set the alarm. Second, I sleep. Third, the loud (and annoying) beep wakes me up just like I want to. But then I’d feel “sleep inertia” (that feeling when you’ve been jolted out from your bed). So Fourth, I would flick the switch from the beeping sound into my favorite Magical radio station, or into the built-in CD player, which plays automatically for one hour after the alarm. By the time it turns off, I would be out of the house, ready for my day.

So what makes this alarm clock special?
Five points: Efficiency, positivity, user-friendliness, portability and handicap-friendly.

Efficiency. If you have an alarm clock, the least you want it to do is to NOT wake you up. It’s better that you let someone knock on your door, or if you’re on the posh side, call you up ala “room service.” This alarm clock rates efficient in a number of ways. First, the alarm is LOUD. And since we live in a very small neighborhood, I wake up not because I need to, but because I fear that I’m waking the whole neighborhood up too!
Second, I appreciate the way that it can accommodate two alarm times with two kinds of beeps. Okay, I know that a lot of digital alarms can accommodate ten alarm times and set them off automatically. But two is enough for me.
I would usually set the first alarm on my exact waking time – but then who knows, I might just doze off for the second time. So, I the second alarm goes off after five minutes, making sure that I REALLY get up.
Any product should perform its task wit utmost dedication and efficiency. And if I were to rate any product I would say that this criteria would be on top of the list.
I think what gives me a hard time looking for a new phone is that a lot of products are too much embellished and I lose sight of what’s essential (especially that I’m not a techie). As long as something can call, text, take pictures and play music efficiently, I’m good to go.

Positivity. This really comes secondary. Since the alarm clock sets the mood of the day, you have to make it as positive as possible. I grew up in a very musical environment. I get jolted, touched, amused and moved by music. Thus the fact that my alarm clock can play music, is a total intersection of technologies. I love the fact that I only need Neyo, The Black Eyed Peas, or even Lady Gaga to perk me up, and that’s what the radio does. Additionally, when DJ Mo, Mojo and Grace Lee start talking, harassing their callers, I get particularly amused.
Products should make you feel good. Not just make you laugh, but strike a chord in you which you could smile about. It’s like chocolate. You can never NOT want chocolate because it specifically makes you feel good.  

User-Friendliness. I love the fact that I rescued this alarm clock from being thrown away in the trash. We got this from my aunt in Canada, and it was a 110-volt gadget. Without warning, my brother plugged it in at home, and poof! It broke even before we unveiled its glory. A year after, I had it repaired. To my surprise, it was easier to use than a cell phone alarm! Since it was a dedicated alarm clock, I only had to press a couple of buttons to set it, slide the switch to my desired beep sound, and voila! I would fall asleep in total confidence.
How many times did we tinker with our cell phone alarm just to make sure it would make the right sound at the right time? I’m sure it took me at least five times to set it, test it, and listen to it before I had to set it again and repeat the process.
Any product should be user friendly. I love the fact that the iPod touch only has one home key. All the other functions are one the screen.
I remember how I disliked my old MP3 player, because it tried to copy the interface of the iPod Mini, but couldn’t. It had the wrong keys doing the wrong functions. Therefore, I couldn’t rely on it especially when I was in a hurry or when I needed it most. Simplicity is the name of the game.

Portability. Okay, so my alarm clock is not really portable because it has to be plugged. But what I want to emphasize is that it’s small. I love the fact that it’s just small enough to accommodate the diameter of a CD! The speakers are on the sides, the interface is in front, and the CD dock is on top. Nothing more, nothing less.
My lifestyle needs gadgets just like that. I travel a lot, so my iPod touch works wonders for me. I’ve been stranded in busses, malls, waiting areas without a paper and pen, and the NOTE function really serves me a lot. It has saved me countless times when I need to organize my thoughts for talks, and when I need to jot down ideas for future use. Not to mention, it fits right in my pocket.
I won’t mind if I was gifted with a small laptop, a pocket mouse, a small table or a small bed. As long as I could drag it along, bring it on!

Handicap-friendly. I saved the best feature for last. You may be wondering: “What’s so special about an alarm clock that does such basic things?” And you may be asking: “What’s Migs’ handicap?”
As if you haven’t noticed by now, I can’t live without my eyeglasses.
I’m as blind as a bat when I would take them off, lie down and fall asleep.
The alarm clock is special for me because it has a big, bright time display in front. It’s not red, as others would imagine it. It’s a digital bright yellow. And it’s perfect for those middle-of-the-night sudden awakenings because I could tell the time effortlessly. Being the only source of light in the room, my eyes don’t even need to adjust.
A lot of people have their own “handicaps.” My mom once had to undergo therapy because she discovered that the joints of her right thumb were not functioning properly due to chronic texting. Thus, she had to buy a phone which had bigger and softer keys.
My final criterion for choosing something is if it can accommodate my “handicaps.” It may sound simplistic, but it’s the only way to be able to survive and enjoy the material things you possess.  

The alarm clock is an innovation brought about by a need. Because the old and conventional clocks only show the time, our ancestors thought: “Why not let these clocks ‘shout’ the time as well?” Today, a host of other alarm clocks abound: the simple “wind-up,” the challenging “digital,” and now, even the ingenious “progressive alarm clocks” which simulate even the sunrise, to help you wake up without the notorious sleep inertia.
This intersection of utilizing sight and sound is a simple one, but indeed, it has proven creative and useful for many reasons.

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