Tag: device

Idea shared #1 – measure your sleep

I don’t consider having more or better ideas than others. But I gradually realized I have less and less time for some activities like programming, electronics etc. Maybe that’s how we realize we are getting older now adults. So I decided to share these ideas rather than fueling the illusory idea that I will implement them one day.

So idea 1 is about measuring sleep. I recorded animals’sleep during my Ph.D. – but it was thanks to an EEG device. I think that if you want to understand or improve something you have to first measure it in a way or another. So I started to try to measure my own sleep with an app (Sleep Cycle). But despite its good reviews it doesn’t work, at least for me.

For instance the chart below is supposed to represent my sleep cycle for the night of the September 14th, 2012. I was certainly not in deep sleep at 1.30AM (baby did not want me to sleep immediately). I also woke up around 4AM (baby was again the reason). And I woke up at 6.45 (with a backup clock – had to wake up for work)?

My Sleep Graph with Sleep Cycle app for September 14th, 2012 night

The last version of the Sleep Cycle app improves things a bit by providing more statistics (so at last you can rely on the approximate time slept and compare your “sleep” across days etc.), more beautiful gaphs and the ability to download raw data. Don’t be fooled however, “raw data” means only start time, end time, sleep quality (how is it measured?), time in bed, number of wake ups and sleep notes. You unfortunately won’t be able to reproduce anything like the graph above.

Hardware devices like the Wakemate or the Zeo might give better results because part of the solution is using a real accelerometer. But the Up story shows that not everything is obvious in this world.

For me the fundamental flaw is to rely only on body movements to detect, quantify and even score sleep. Of course there is an abundant scientific literature about how muscle tone (of different muscles) is related to sleep stages (see here and here for introductory texts). But this is often measured by electrodes glued on your body.

So I think it could be very easy to develop a simple, cheap “sleep T-shirt” with light electrodes that will just stick to your body when you sleep (and you put enough of them so at any time at least some of them are connected). In fact it might happen that the Rest SleepShirt would already do the job – it’s a pity they don’t elaborate more on how they measure and collect data (but I understand they will want to sell the product later on ;-)). In my idea light wires would then go to a small pouch where they would be connected to something like a LilyPad Arduino (because it is flexible and can be sewed to a T-shirt – there may be other devices available). The LilyPad would serve as data collector or as data transmitter to a computer / a smartphone / a specific receiver (coupled to a real clock, like the Zeo). The advantage would be to remain sole owner of your sleep data – but of course the business plan should include some “social” features 😉

In the end it should look a bit like this:

Idea shared #1 - measure your sleep with sleep T-shirtThe other advantage would be that in such way you may also measure electrical activity through the body.

Will it work? I’m sure of it. Will it be enough to sleep correctly? I don’t think so: it’s not because you measure something that it improves. But at least you will have some clue on what is going on. Some other advices may be interesting. And for the moment nothing replaces a visit to a real doctor / sleep specialist!

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Wearable electronics/communication

I became recently interested in wearable electronics and wearable communication. I think we usually don’t need a computer at home. But I also think that electronics, sensory / storage / communication / helper devices will invade our world (privacy) at one point.

A few months ago, I liked Phillip Torrone’s retrospective collection of wearable electronic devices (for Make:). It will be quite fun to wear some of the stuff he showed. However most of the current applications shown are mostly designed to collect information from the body they are attached to or to communicate with this body. This is very much self-centered.

Recently (tonight), I watched Kate Hartman’s TED talk: The art of wearable communication. As the title implies, Kate Hartman goes one step further and designs wearable communication devices. I must admit I’m not sure I would want to wear the devices she designed. But I admire how simple these devices can be and yet some of them create an effective embryo of communication with others.

Kate Hartman and her wearable communication devices
Kate Hartman and her wearable communication devices

The full video is just below:

We don’t need a computer at home

Historically, computers were invented to solve issues in the factory or the office (university office or company office) but recently invaded home and are becoming ubiquitous.

IBM System/370 Model 145

At the beginning of this invasion, computers for home were (and are still) very similar to the ones for the industry/office: a CPU, a keyboard to enter data or commands and a screen to see what was happening. Artifacts to be attached to the computer were first invented for the corporate world and then progressively entered into homes. I still remember the first mouse we had at home: it was like a mini-revolution. After years there were still some software that could not take advantage of it or its usage was implemented but in a rudimentary way. Idem for the first webcam we acquired: only the provided software was able to use it. Now it comes embedded in most computer screen and can be used for various purposes (video chat, take pictures, read bar codes, art, …).

More and more, computers are now declined its various avatars like calculators, mobile phones, game consoles, car dashboards, ATMs, cashiers, … All of them affect our daily lives in a way or another. But in my opinion the computer shouldn’t have left the corporate world. Its home avatars should have directly been via adapted technologies. Because Mr. and Mrs. Everyone don’t need any computer at home.

Although some bosses want their employees to behave differently, the factory/office is were we work and home is were we don’t work. At home, we read, eat, sleep, play, interact with other family members and neighbors, perform personal care, watch the television, etc. None of these activities requires a computer as we know it (CPU, keyboard, mouse and screen). However some of them can be enhanced or at least affected by it.

Whatever how it is materialized, a “computer” can enhance your reading experience. It can monitor your sleep while you snore or, more broadly, it can monitor your health while performing your daily activities. Computers can enhance your movie experience (by linking to related content, e.g.). They can help you improve your cooking skills and watch your savings.

Without pretending to know the future, I think miniaturization is and will put thing back “in order”: you will no longer have a computer on your desk but a bunch of small devices, each of them responsible for a small part of your daily life activities. You probably already have a mobile phone or a smartphone, i.e. a mini portable computer allowing us to phone. You probably already used a calculator, i.e. a mini portable computer specialized for calculus. Computer-like devices are becoming more and more small and powerful. They are also doing more than one simple thing at a time.

Another interesting trend is that computer-like devices are becoming more and more transparent, i.e. becoming more and more hidden or at least embedded in our daily lives. This is obviously allowed by miniaturization. The soda distributor contains a small computer-like device. Your electronic watch contains more electronics than ever. Your television screen is flat and is more capable but takes less space than your grandma’s television (relatively to the size of the screen of course).

To go beyond that, people started to experiment with wearable devices and electronics. These devices are part of your daily clothes. Currently these artifacts are merely gadgets and most of them are monitoring devices, just collecting and sometimes displaying information to the outside world. But other applications can be found like being able to carry your electronic documents (without the need for a USB key or CDs) or actually being your receiver/transmitter (“phone” without the actual plastic object we always lose somewhere when we need it). Without becoming cyborgs these guys below won’t soon need cellphones anymore:

Suits & Cells

Now is this an praise of closed platforms like the iPad, the iPod, etc.? No. I don’t say that no computer should be allowed at home: some people are working from home and they obviously need a computer. On top of that, in order to become part of our everyday habits, these devices would need to be transparent, open: people should be aware of what these devices are doing, what are their benefits and potentially what are the drawbacks of using / wearing them. One of the main concerns about these closed platforms and future platforms is privacy: how much of you do you agree to reveal “in exchange” of being empowered by these devices? I think people should be able to refuse to reveal anything and still be able to use these devices.

Photo credits: IBM System/370 Model 145 by John Keogh (CC-by-nc) and Suits & Cells by Alexa Clark (CC-by-nc), both on Flickr.