Adafruit’s Ladyada interviews Gauri Nanda, founder of Toymail, creator of Clocky, the alarm clock that runs away. Entrepreneur and Innovator (video). No need to give your child a phone. Toymail talkies let kids exchange voice messages with friends and grownups. Toymail’s female co-founders have taken a steady approach to building their NYC startup, and the reward has been success raising funds.
Gauri received her MS in media arts and sciences from MIT in 2005 as a member of the Object-Based Media research group.
Clocky is, quite simply, for people who have trouble waking up.
When the alarm clock goes off and the snooze button is pressed, Clocky will fall off of the bedside table and wheel away, bumping mindlessly into objects on the floor until he eventually finds a spot to rest. Minutes later, when the alarm sounds again, the over-sleeper must get up out of bed and search for Clocky. Because you employ multiple senses to find the clock, you are sure to awake before disabling the alarm. Small wheels enable Clocky to move and reposition himself, and an internal computer helps him find a new hiding spot every day.
I’ve been known to hit the snooze bar for up to two hours or even accidentally turn it off. I’ve known people who put the alarm clock in the living room, but then forget to set it before going to bed. Others say they are trying to wean themselves off of snoozing, as if it was a bad habit like smoking or drinking. In the foggy logic of our drowsiness, we disable the very device that is meant to wake us up. Having the alarm clock hide from me was just the most obvious way I could think of to get out of bed.
Current alarm clocks are obnoxious, stressful devices that don’t do their intended job very well. Clocky is less of an annoying device and more like a troublesome pet that you love anyway. He is playful. He likes games like hide-and-seek and catch me if you can. And he is a bit ugly. But his unconventional looks keep the user calm and incite laughter in one of the most hated times of the day.
Clocky is not trying to solve all of the problems with alarm clocks—for example how they disrupt other people in the room—but I think maybe someday he can. I think the answer rests in the usage of multiple Clockies. Let’s say there are two people with different sleep schedules sharing a room. Maybe one person’s Clocky can tell the other to hush up if he has sounded off one too many times. Or, maybe they can form an alliance and simultaneously target the offending over-sleeper. I have adopted the philosophy that when two devices communicate, they can solve more problems—that is, two Clockies are better than one.
I like to explore how bad designs become adopted and then, through my work, show how they can be different. There is a perception that technology has to be complicated. My work typically focuses on industrial design projects that add some intelligence into the mix in a way that is simple. So objects do their jobs better without additional complexity. I don’t want to have to use things that require me to know or learn something beforehand. So those are the kind of designs I try to create.