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Friday, February 18, 2011

Initial Impressions of Wakemate (sleep gadget)

Today I will deviate a bit from the anime/games theme and touch on another realm of nerdery: gadgets. We love gadgets. We use gadgets all day long. And now even when we sleep.

The WakeMate doesn't come in doll sizes

WakeMate (official website) is a Bluetooth wristband that tracks how you sleep (using actigraphy) and wakes you up at a optimal time within a 20 minute window so you feel better overall. It works with iOS, Blackberry and Android (Windows Phone 7 possibly soon). The product has been in startup hell for a couple years but units started shipping this winter. Since my not-so-trusty iHome is out of commission I thought I'd give it a try. I'd looked at sleep trackers before but they usually cost 100-400$, WakeMate is a bit more affordable at 60$.

Hardware - The physical half of WakeMate is a wristband that connects to your smartphone. The band fits me snugly and has adjusting elastic. I can (barely) fit both hands in it so it should "fit" all but may be tight on some. The WakeMate itself is removable from the fleece band so you can wash it. The visible section is simply a mini USB-B port, a LED indicator, and a plastic switch; everything else is wrapped in plastic. and then inside the wristband.

The actual unit

I was worried about battery life after reading Engadget's review (lots of great pictures) but I got three nights out of it before it warned me I needed to charge it. Considering each night is about 7 hrs (and many people sleep shorter nights) I don't find this unreasonable. If the device does run out of power while you are asleep the fail-safe alarm will sound at the end of the waking window. The unit charges over USB and normally would come with a AC adapter. However they are having problems with the AC adapter overheating the battery and lighting the wristband on fire (seriously) so mine only came with a cable. Supposedly I will be sent an adapter at a later date.

iPhone Software - I use a iPhone 3GS, the same app is also iPod/Pad compatible. Different apps exist for other platforms and they may have different interfaces/features.

The app is clean and easy to use, the WakeMate must be paired once via Bluetooth settings and after that it can be connected to from the app. If the band isn't connected correctly and you try to go to sleep the phone will make a fuss until you fix it.

You must log-in to the free Wakelytics site before you can use the app. The alarm is set to a 20 minute window and that window is calculated and displayed prominently. The software chooses the best time to wake you up before the window is over (see the Experience section). You can set the alarm to one of the supplied tones, iPod music (my choice), phone vibration (the band does not vibrate), or no alarm. The app encourages you to tag nights, it comes with many example tags but you can make your own as well (I made a "roommate" tag for example).

Status Alarm ScreenTag ScreenData Screen

When you wake up the app greets you by name, asks how you feel, and automatically syncs data to the website. Data is not viewable in the app (a shortcut to the website is included). As the system is multi-platorm a unified website is probably easier to maintain but it would be nice to have in-app view as well.

Website (Wakelytics) - Wakelytics is the name of WakeMate's analytics platform. It assumes you don't know anything about sleep cycles (probably true) so everything is explained in fairly simple terms. This is nice for most things but I can't help but wish for an advanced view or even just an encyclopedia page explaining the scientific equivalent of the sleep categories the site uses. Tags can be compared but I don't have enough data to do anything useful with that yet. Oddly you can't compare tags simply to nights without that tag (example, caffeine-tagged nights vs non-caffeine nights), this seems rather basic so its odd its not included. The product is young though so and the WakeMate team has expressed intent to add more to the tagging system.

Wakemate doesn't supply a ton of screen shots (and they seem slightly different than the actual site). Here are a few with my (real) data, click to view (quite large):

Experience - In terms of data, the device seems to be pretty accurate though the number/times of awakenings is the only statistic I can verify with any true confidence. I had been getting similar scores for most of this week but this last night I felt a lot less rested and my score reflected that. I must stress here that I am not a doctor, I don't have any solid knowledge of how this works.

The wake-up feature works as expected. The device will sense when you are in a sleep-stage close to awake and wake you up. In contrast a traditional alarm is completely time based so the sleeper may be in a deep stage when it goes off, causing them feel terrible upon awakening (sleep inertia). I felt pretty groggy this morning when I work up but I also remember slightly before the alarm went off so WakeMate did not call me out of deep sleep (like a traditional alarm could do). One other time it went off at the end of the window and I felt pretty wake but I may have just ran out of time and triggered the fail-safe alarm.

Overall- I was a bit hesitant to order the WakeMate because of numerous production problems and negative initial reviews but I chanced it on the 30-day return window. The device has worked as well as I hoped these first few days and I don't see my self returning it in the future. If you have trouble getting up without 2 or 3 alarms (my old system) WakeMate is definitely worth a try.


Magedark said...

Glad to see someone trying it. I've been thinking about this since college's been necessitating me to wake up at early times, and alarms always seem to throw me off.

Jyuichi said...

I'm glad to help people out :) I was frustrated there were not many reviews when I was considering buying it but I'm glad I took the leap. The team seems dedicated to releasing software updates as well :)

I really think this is great for college students. It's super portable and really helps maximize the little sleep we get.

Magedark said...

I'll push this product closer to the top of my buy stack. I've been wavering on this for a while.

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