I have a problem waking up without an alarm. For many years—maybe over a decade—I had a Braun travel alarm clock. It was a classic minimalist design: a simple black square with a round dial, lightweight and easy to use. There were no extras: just time and alarm; no snooze button. It was an analogue clock, which means you didn’t have to refer to the manual every time you wanted to reset time or set the alarm. In my morning grogginess, I would often swing my arm to switch off the alarm and push the clock off the table. I always had it by my bedside and even took it along when I travelled on work or holiday.
I don’t remember what happened to that clock; perhaps I abandoned it in my eagerness to adopt digital technology. Since then I have run through many digital clocks, including a couple of fancy ones from Brookstone with assorted features— customizable snooze buttons, with and without FM radio, multiple sound options, and there was one that would vibrate furiously under my pillow. Some turned out to be just toys; many required a high level of technical know-how to adjust the settings. And I often wondered why they couldn’t invent a voice-controlled clock so that you could just say “shut up” and go back to sleep for another 15 minutes.
Setting the pace: One is often half awake by the time one finds the snooze button on an analogue device
At some point I gave up on digital clocks and switched to the alarm clock on my cellphone. Smartphones these days have very good built-in clocks with multiple options. There’s a neat iPhone app called Alarm Clock Pro launched two weeks ago that’s got very good reviews. I don’t know much about Android devices, but I’m sure they too have some smart alarm clock apps. But the problem with mobile phones (especially touch-screen ones) is you have to “look” for the snooze button—which for some people means fumbling for spectacles. And by the time I find the snooze button on the screen, I’m half awake. The thing is, I like an extra 40 winks (I believe snooze buttons give you only 9 more minutes of sleep).
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The ideal solution for people like me is a voice-controlled alarm clock, and I’ve seen one on the Net called Moshi Voice Control Alarm Clock that not only lets you set the time and alarm by vocal commands, but also allows you to reset—by voice control—the snooze mode as many times as you wish.
To give you an idea of how it works, this is how you set time:
A Moshi clock
You say, “Hello Moshi.” And the clock replies, “Welcome. Command, please.”
“Tell me the correct time.”
“The time is now set to 7.30am.”
And you don’t have to hit any buttons: just say “5 minutes” and go back to sleep.
It’s not a new device; it has been around a couple of years. It also tells you the day, the temperature and if you have a problem sleeping at night, you can ask it to play a sleep- inducing sound like rain or waterfall. No fiddling with any buttons; all voice controlled. Depending on the model and from where you buy it, it costs between $25 (around Rs 1,150) and $45.
There’s also the Braun voice-controlled travel alarm clock which looks just like my old analogue clock, but I’ve seen only two or three reviews and they aren’t very positive. You have to clap to activate the snooze alarm, but how on earth do you bring yourself to clap at the crack of dawn? The other person in the room will think you’ve gone bananas.
I’ve also seen an iPhone app called Snooze Robot for 99 cents but I’ve not seen any customer rating so far. What might be worth waiting for is Moshi’s mobile app that they say will be launched soon.
However, the problem with most voice-controlled applications is the accent. And I don’t know if the Moshi clock can understand the Indian English accent. Now, you might say, who uses a clock these days when you have smartphones, but that’s a separate story.
Shekhar Bhatia is a former editor,Hindustan Times, a science buff and a geek at heart.
Write to Shekhar at the firstname.lastname@example.org