timesUp

Group Members

Shreeya Tyagi | Orlando Bascunan | Afrooz Samaei

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Introduction

timesUp is a minimal and stylish wearable timer that is designed to increase the productivity of the user. It can be worn on the wrist as a bracelet or hung from the neck in the form of a necklace. It features a timer which breaks down working time into intervals of 45 minutes followed by 15 minutes of break, or as we call it “play” time. Once the time is up the device notifies the user by a short vibration and blink of an LED. 

The project was developed based on Pomodoro time management technique, introduced by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The goal of this product is to encourage the users to commit to a set of work and play time intervals and help them maximize their efficiency and minimize the distractions. In addition, taking short, scheduled breaks while working eliminates the “running on fumes” feeling that users get when they have pushed themselves too hard, leading to a more productive day.

 

 

The product includes a vibration notification system, an LED notification system, and also a button to activate the commands.

The instructions to use the product is as following:

  • Press and hold the button to Start or Stop the timer.

          – Start is notified as a single vibration

          – Stop is notified as double vibrations

           When it’s time to take a break or get back to work the device will notify you by 3 vibrations and the blink of the LED.

 

  • Press the button to check the amount of time left on the timer. The LED will flash 3 times:

          – Slowly if within the first half of the interval

          – Fast if within the second half of the interval

 

  • Press the button to toggle between Work time (45 minutes) & Play time (15 minutes)

          – Work mode is displayed with two slow blinks of the LED

          – Play mode is displayed with two fast blinks of the LED

 

Context

For many people, time is an enemy. The anxiety triggered by “the ticking clock”, in particular when a deadline is involved, leads to ineffective work and study behavior which in turn elicits the tendency to procrastinate. The Pomodoro Technique was created with the aim of using time as a valuable ally to accomplish what we want to do the way we want to do it, and to empower us to continually improve our work or study processes.

The Pomodoro Technique is founded on three basic assumptions (Francesco Cirillo):  

  • A different way of seeing time (no longer focused on the concept of becoming) alleviates anxiety and in doing so leads to enhanced personal effectiveness.  
  • Better use of the mind enables us to achieve greater clarity of thought, higher consciousness, and sharper focus, all the while facilitating learning.
  • Employing easy-to-use, unobtrusive tools reduces the complexity of applying the technique, while favoring continuity, and allows you to concentrate your efforts on the activities you want to accomplish. Many time management techniques fail because they subject the people who use them to a higher level of added complexity with respect to the intrinsic complexity of the task at hand.

In order to develop this project, we considered ourselves as the potential users and thought of our daily challenges and needs in order to build a personalized product. All three of us were concerned with our time and how we manage it. Hence, we decided to build a product that helps us keep a better track of time passage while eliminating the distractions caused by traditional or phone alarms. 

Design and Production Process

Since the goal of timesUp is to minimize the distractions, whether caused by the user or by other people, we wanted the product to be as invisible as possible, in a way that it does not draw the user’s attention towards itself and also does not invite others to inquire about it. This main principle formed many of our design decisions. For instance, there is no visual sign, such as lights, indicating that the device is running, in order to minimize the attention drawn by the device. However, the user can still check the time passed or make sure the device is running by pressing the button and watching different blinking modes of the LED. 

In order to better user test different forms of the product and come up with the best design solution as we compare them, we decided to build three distinct products, while keeping the aesthetics, design choices, and functionality identical among the three objects. This gave the wearable flexibility and comfort along with ease of use. We built a bracelet and two different necklaces.

 

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We used 3D printing to build the prototypes. The main reasons behind choosing 3D printing was firstly because of its rapidness and low cost, which enabled us to do multiple iterations of the product and try different forms, before coming up with a final solution. Secondly, the light weight of the plastic made it a perfect choice for the material of this particular wearable product, as comfort should be a key feature of both the bracelet and the necklace.

The 3D printer we used was the MakerBot Replicator 2 and the polymer material filament was PLA (Poly Lactic Acid). After creating a range of textural vocabulary, we printed multiple disks with different textures and stacked and glued them on top of each other. There is a little slit cut on the side of the products that allows USB connection, in case the battery dies in the middle of a work session or in case a new code should be uploaded to the microcontroller.

The artistic details/forms of the product were explored in Autodesk Fusion 360. These were based on contemporary jewelry, which worked to our advantage since we were able to use the device in our everyday lives without the device attracting much attention in public workspace.

 

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The circuit used in timesUp is identical among all the three prototypes. It consists of a mini vibrator motor, an LED, and a button, all connected to Gemma microcontroller. The reason behind choosing Gemma was mainly because of its small size and low cost. Although some features of the Gemma such as not having a serial port made it difficult to debug the code, it overall provided the functionality that we were looking for. In addition to the above components, we also used diodes to protect the components against reverse or negative voltage, transistors used as amplifiers, and also two 1K resistors. 

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Here is a complete list of all the components used:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/17sHo2XsYTJYVaqCtRQAXoin2ELTBKjEZiLoTEISM1jQ/edit?usp=sharing

Link to the Code: https://github.com/obascunan/timesUp/blob/master/timesup.ino

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User Testing Process

After building and integrating the circuit into the 3D printed objects, we tested the timer by setting the alarm to vibrate after one-minute intervals, in order to make sure that the timing and notifications work perfectly. We then set the alarm to vibrate 45 minutes after starting the test, indicating the start of the break, followed by another vibration after 15 minutes, showing the end of the break. Since the goal of our product was to keep the user focused and away from any possible distractions, we took notes and wrote down any significant comments on a piece of paper during the 15-minute breaks. After the user testing session was done, we filled up the following questionnaire:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1fQS3xAJj5mSP7VG-xqpt2jwTUKIn6LCJoDFf-msvjWw/edit

Overall, the product felt comfortable and familiar. Although some of the notifications were confusing sometimes, the overall experience was smooth and straight forward. The bracelet version was more reliable in term of detecting the vibration notifications compared to the necklaces, as we noticed that it was sometimes hard to feel the vibrations of the necklace. Unexpected challenges were to isolate from water as the enclosure is firm but permeable. 

The link above contains the results of our responses to the user testing questionnaires. The image below also shows some of the highlights of these results.

 

Instructions Handout
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Challenges, Outcomes, and Future Iterations

The timesUp wearable is designed to help with time management and increasing focus level while working or studying. Although we found it challenging to commit to the designated time intervals at first, we realized that this product could help us gradually increase our efficiency and minimize distractions, when using it over a longer period of time.

The main challenge was to integrate the commands such that the product is equipped with different functionalities, while maintaining simplicity. It was challenging to play with various functionalities that the combination of a button, LED and vibrator could provide, in a way that they become intuitive to the user after a while.

The other difficult aspect of the project was the size of the product. The goal was to make the product simple, light, and relatively small. Hence, we spent a considerable amount of time carefully soldering the delicate components we were using and stacking them on top of each other such that they occupy the minimum amount of space.

For future iterations, we would like to make the On/Off switch on the gemma accessible to use. This would make the interactions with the device simpler as we could save the “holding button” action to switch between work and rest mode, and use the “pressing” action to check the time. A charging module or a disposable battery would make it easier for the user to keep the device running as the gemma doesn’t charge batteries. In addition, housing the button inside the device and using the the whole display to touch and press it could give a more sleek look to the product, as pressing the button is the only interaction needed from the user. Lastly, insulating from the water seemed relevant to do for the wrist piece, as it is in the splashing radius when washing hands/dishes.

 

References

Cirillo, Francesco. The Pomodoro Technique: Do More and Have Fun with Time Management. Berlin: FC Garage, 2013. Print.

https://learn.adafruit.com/buzzing-mindfulness-bracelet/overview

http://www.digitaltrends.com/wearables/re-vibe-anti-distraction-wearable/

https://www.makerbot.com/replicator/

http://www.autodesk.com/products/fusion-360/overview