Sleep is one of the most natural aspects of our lives. It's something we do every day, and yet there's still so much we don't understand about it. While we know our sleep has an enormous impact on the rest of our day, most of us give little thought to what happens while we're sleeping. At Hello, we want to change that.
With a better, more comprehensive understanding of all aspects of your sleep, you're able to make more informed decisions in order to improve it. Sense takes in an incredible amount of information about your night, from your sleep cycle, to your sleep patterns, and even the conditions of your bedroom, to give you deeper insight into your sleep. It even wakes you up at the optimal time in the morning, so you wake up feeling refreshed every day.
Sense: Designed to help you sleep better.
Designing a product that would live in someone's bedroom informed a lot of our decisions; being one of the most personal spaces in our lives, we think of our bedrooms as being relaxing, not distracting. Sense needed to feel more like a piece of art than a piece of technology, something that someone could appreciate regardless of its functionality—that meant no visible ports, vents, or LEDs everywhere. So our first goal was to design the exterior in a way that allowed us to conceal the technology inside.
While we wanted Sense to be beautiful and to fit into anyone's bedroom no matter their style, we didn't want it to demand attention and become a centerpiece. We 3D printed literally hundreds of prototype parts trying to find something that felt right. Our initial designs were more flat and cylindrical in shape, and while this enabled us to easily place all the components on a single layer, we weren't satisfied with how large the footprint was and how bulky it felt. With space on a nightstand often being fairly limited, we knew we had to make it more accommodating to these needs.
Concept + Construction
We started to narrow in on a spherical shape. A sphere is strong, simple, and can be defined by a single measurement: it's radius. We all appreciated the simplicity of the geometry, but we also liked the way it felt much smaller than a cube or cylinder of similar volume. It took a considerable amount of effort to achieve this shape. To get there, we had to split the circuit board into four separate layers with sensors stacked in between to fit everything inside.
Manufacturing this shape also presented some interesting challenges. We were determined to make the outer shell out of a single piece of polycarbonate, but most manufacturers told us it couldn't be done. After looking at lots of different methods of tooling, we settled on creating a tool with a collapsible core. This allowed the undercut created by the sphere to move out of the way piece by piece, giving us exactly the shape we needed.
It was here that we realized we needed to go back and further fine tune our design. Due to the way our tooling creates the holes on the cavity side, we needed to add a lot of draft angles to ensure we could easily remove the final piece from the steel mold. This meant meticulous adjustment of every one of the 915 surfaces that make up the outer shell, which was a pretty harrowing process. Inadvertently clicking "select all surfaces" was a kiss of death, guaranteed to lock up Solidworks and force a reboot on even our best machines. We had to very carefully adjust one line at a time, cross our fingers that the program wouldn't crash, save our progress, and then allow ourselves a brief sigh of relief before starting the whole process again for the next adjustment.
One element that existed even in our early designs was the exterior pattern. We were inspired chiefly by architecture, which was part of our deliberate attempt to make it not feel like a piece of technology. Most notably, we took inspiration from the Beijing National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest. We wanted a design that was organic and natural, but also structural and rational. Sleep is natural and relaxing, and we wanted an organic design that captured that feeling. To get the exact look we wanted, we wrote a custom script in Grasshopper (a plugin for Rhino) which allowed us to manually place every line and get each one right where we wanted it. We then moved over to Solidworks to detail out the parts and assembly.
Another element of our design, that was inspired by architecture, is the way Sense glows to provide feedback. We really loved the way cities looked a night, especially the way entire buildings glowed from the inside, and wanted to capture that feeling with Sense. This presented a pretty big challenge, though. In order to achieve this effect, we'd need to find a way to light up the whole device without compromising our desire to keep the sensors and tech hidden. Luckily, the answer was already right in front of us. We happened to have a small sample of acoustic mesh, which is used in small sizes to cover speakers on mobile devices. Even before we started designing Sense, we found it to be an interesting material, and it ended up being exactly what we were looking for. We wrapped the inner structure of Sense with this mesh completely, so even on careful examination it's hard to see the sensors inside, but still glows beautifully.
Sleep Pill— Monitors Your Sleep Patterns
The other component of Sense we had to give careful consideration to was the Sleep Pill, which is an important piece of the puzzle. The Sleep Pill contains a precise accelerometer which allows Sense to recognize your sleep through your movement at night. Wearables aren't the right approach to sleep; you need to wear it, you need to charge it, you need to press buttons, you need to remember to put it on or take it off. People don't want to integrate complexities into their lives in general, let alone something when they sleep. With the Sleep Pill, you just attach it to your pillow once, and that's it. Nothing to charge, no buttons to press, nothing else to do other than sleep.
That was our goal with Sense, to make it so simple to use that you don't even have to do anything. We think those are the moments when technology really becomes magical.