Why you should care

This smart alarm clock is all about you. 

Alarm clocks: There have been hundreds of permutations on the design — even ones seemingly designed to irritate the shit out of you first thing in the morning. Yet one feature appears to have eluded us: the ability to wake one person up without waking their bedmate. Ever shared a mattress with someone who needs to be roused at an earlier hour? I’d bet you’d pay money to avoid having your sleep disturbed and resenting your early-rising lover.

How does $249 sound? That’s the preorder price for the Wakē (pronounced wake-EE’), an intelligent alarm clock. Mounted above your headboard, the device knows who you are and wakes you with your own private sunrise and birdsong serenade. Developed by Los Angeles-based Lucera Labs, the Wakē — which looks like a small Bluetooth speaker mounted on a pivot — uses an infrared heat sensor, a narrowly focused beam of light and a special speaker to create a waking experience that is anything but alarming. “We don’t even use the term ‘alarm clock,’” says William Russell, Lucera’s founder. “That just sounds archaic.”

The sensor knows when you’ve left the bed.

Sounds a little creepy, but here’s how it works: The sensor, which can accurately read temperatures to within a tenth of a degree, locates its intended target sleeper. A small motor swivels the Wakē so that it’s pointed at the sleeper’s head. At wake-up time, a bright white LED slowly illuminates, while the parametric speaker creates a cone of sound that only one person can hear. Settings and sounds are controlled by a free app. And there’s no need to turn the device off — that same sensor knows when you’ve left the bed.

Waking up to a gradual light is hardly new; scientific evidence shows it can be very effective. But dawn simulators, which retail for over $140, tend to flood the entire bedroom in light. “None do this targeted, one-person-at-a-time thing,” Russell points out. If you’re picky about your light, though, you may not love the Wakē’s LED, which produces a colder, whiter light than other sunrise simulators. And don’t expect high-quality audio from the speaker. Directional sound is fine for peaceful noises but not for the thrashing guitars of Metallica.

Is Wakē a better option than standard alarm clocks? “That will need to be tested,” says Dr. Hawley Montgomery-Downs, an associate professor of psychology at West Virginia University and owner of Sleep Matters LLC, a sleep device testing company. However, she is optimistic about the product’s ability to help people get a better night’s sleep, and sees potential value in the technology for studying sleep. The device also has other possible uses, from keeping tabs on the movements of an elderly parent to monitoring a baby to receiving texts after your partner’s bedtime. Even, potentially, sensing optimum ovulation times.

If waking up on the right side of the bed without cursing your mate sounds appealing, the Wakē aims to start shipping this fall. And if not, well, there’s always the original alarm clock. No batteries required.

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