Whether blue screens are keeping us up in the evening, or snooze buttons are stopping us from waking in the morning, modern technology has a lot to answer for when it comes to ruining a good night's sleep.
Now, though, it could help us wake up in the morning too.
Microsoft has joined the ranks of companies taking on the challenge of bringing a reluctant sleepyhead to life in the morning with an app-based alarm. It's going energetically beyond the standard clock feature on your smartphone. The company, based in Redmond, Washington, has turned waking up into a game with the Mimicker alarm. Mimicker forces a surprise task -- like taking a selfie, performing a color-matching task or reciting a tongue twister -- upon the slumbering party before the alarm can be turned off.
Microsoft calls the games Mimics and says that they will make waking up "enjoyable". Effective, maybe, but enjoyable? Nice try, Microsoft.
As with many of the wakey-wakey puzzle apps already on the market, Microsoft has taken a software-based approach to solving this problem. Other projects, like Ruggie, which is currently on Kickstarter, introduce more hardware. Ruggie will only stop your alarm from squealing when your feet make contact with pressure sensors in the floor.
For Microsoft, Mimicker is as much a showcase of its research, through its Project Oxford, as an attempt to prove it can deliver a true love's kiss worthy of waking a sleeping princess through the medium of the mobile app.
Each of the Mimics is powered by a different piece of Microsoft technology. With Color Capture, you must take a picture of an object in a given color, and then the app uses computer vision to guarantee that you have completed the task. Similarly, its speech technology will listen to you reading a tongue-twister and confirm that you have indeed done it properly.
Meanwhile, in Express Yourself mode, you must not only take a selfie to shut off your alarm, but mimic a given emotion in the photo, which Microsoft's facial recognition technology can recognize. This will inevitably lead you to aggressively growl something along the lines of "who you telling to smile?", at your phone in the morning. But the point is that it will also engage your brain. Bonus benefit: many scientists believe that smiling can put you in a good mood and decrease stress.
Microsoft claims that to ensure that the games were set at the right level, its researchers woke up to a Mimic every morning. The task needed to be hard enough to rouse someone from slumber, but not so hard they wouldn't be able to complete it and stop the alarm from sounding -- oh, the horror.
Android phone owners, but not iPhone or Windows Phone users, who have trouble lifting their heads from the pillow in the morning can download the Mimicker Alarm through Google Play now.