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Snooze-Button Abusers Could Be In for a Race Against Time With the 'Clocky'

A grad student aims to sell an alarm that rolls away and chirps until it's found and silenced.

April 12, 2005|Roger Vincent | Times Staff Writer

After centuries of cowering helplessly as their owners bash them every morning, alarm clocks are starting to run away.

"Clocky," invented by a grad student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, is round and furry and has wheels. It takes off in search of a hiding place as soon as you hit the snooze button.

That you have to get out of bed to hunt it down after it rolls off the nightstand is considered good news by slugabeds like its creator, Gauri Nanda.

"I've hit the snooze button for, like, two hours," the 25-year-old said.

One reason Clocky is so effective -- some might say diabolical -- is that it's programmed to move randomly in distance and direction. It could come to rest across the room or under the bed before it resumes chirping.

"The idea is a hide-and-seek game in the morning because you don't know where it's going to end up," Nanda said.

Several investors and retailers have approached Nanda, who hopes to see Clockys rolling off the manufacturing line within a year and selling for less than $30 each. The prototype is coated in carpet, which Nanda envisions replacing with a soft fabric.

Efforts to wake people by mechanical means date at least to the days of Leonardo da Vinci. One of the Renaissance man's lesser-known inventions was a device that woke the sleeper by gently rubbing his feet. The earliest known U.S. alarm clock was created by Levi Hutchins of New Hampshire in 1787, but the alarm rang at only one specified time that couldn't be set or altered.

One aspect of that appeals to Nanda. "I enjoy making projects where the technology is hidden, and you don't have to learn anything about that technology to use it."

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