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Thursday, June 05, 2014

Smart alarms for when awake and working

The link is vaguely related, but this post was not prompted by it - I just wanted to have some link to the state of the art: Five free apps to help remind you to take a break - TechRepublic:

Like many folks, I sit too much working at my computer.

I have an activity monitor, my Basis Watch.  It tracks how long I sit still.   In the past few weeks, I have still for as long as 4.5 hours at a stretch - that's absolutely still, in my chair at my keyboard, typing.  Nearly every day I sit still for 2 or 3 stretches of 2 hours. Basis allows you to set a goal - "Don't Be A Sitter: from 9-5, get up every N hours."  I currently have the goal set at 2 hours - because whenever I move it lower, say 90 minutes, it gets depressing.

I have tried setting alarms to remind myself to get up and work.  Right now I have alarms set at 11:30, 2:00pm, and 3:30pm. Why so irregular? See below.

This post was prompted by my 11:30 alarm going off.  Unnecessarily, because I had just been active, walking over to a coworker's desk.

Having the alarm go off unnecessarily is irritating.  Having it good just as I am settling back at my desk to get back to work disrupts my concentration, breaks my flow.  Having the alarm go off when I am 30 or 45 minutes into a good working period, into flow, really pisses me off.  I have this theory that interruptions while you are in the middle of a critical b it of work, several things up in the air, in your head, is one of the primary causes of bugs.

What I want is an alarm, a reminder, to get up and move around, that is not at an absolute time.  What I want is an alarm that occurs, say, an hour from the last time I got up and moved around.  An alarm that is smart enough to reset itself

More: I want an alarm, a reminder, that is smart enough to detect (by some heuristic) if I am in flow or not.  (Hmm, I wonder if my Basis watch can reliably distinguish typing.  It's accelerometer is on my wrist, after all.  Since I am a hunt and peck typist, 60wpm, but 80% right handed, I might have to move my watch from left wrist to my right wrist.)

A reminder that is smart enough to try to look for a period to notify me, after I have been working for an hour, but before I have been working for 2.  Looking for a period where I am not working intensely.   Possibly looking fior a period where I am not typing intensely - or possibly looking at what I am actually doing, whether I am working, or in Blogger (like now).    Which is smart enough to look for a good period to interrupt me.  But which might interrupt me no matrter what I am doing after 2 hours of sitting.

You know those prtoducts that try to wake you up at a good point in your sleep cycle? e.g. http://www.sleeptracker.com/how-it-works/

What I want is a product that interrupts me at a good point in my work cycle.

(Ideally it might be smart enough not to interrupt me when I am in a meeting. )


Smart alarms when you are awake.

Smart alarms when you are workuing.

Smart alarms should not just be for sleep.


(Possibly it could have the sort of incremental alarm feature that a dawn simulator has.  A low priority background notification that ramps up gradually.)


OK, I should just go ahead and write it myself.   I installed Tasker for Android to write such scripts. I am not a big fan of Tasker - stupid graphical interface, but worse, my phone battery always drains.   I got the basic timer functionality working, but was not able to detect movement by accelerometer. (Blogging mwe this prompted to re-Google, and I found https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.kanetik.movement_detection_trial_premium)


Andy Glew said...

It looks like the Jawbone UP and UP24 have several flavors of such smart alarms:


Idle Alert (between start time and N time, buzz if inactive for N minutes"

Smart Alarm - to wake you up in a state of light sleep.

Power Nap - optimal nap duration between 25 and 45 minutes

(I had not even thought about the Power Nap)

The next thing I want is a generic smart interrupt when I am awake and/or working - e.g. for low priority texts or email.

Andy Glew said...

My Basis watch has been good - the pedometer has really helped, 11 thousands steps per day, N minutes running - and probably just wearing a timepiece has been good for me.

But it does seem as if the Jawbone UP and and FitBit are ahead of the Basis watch.

I bought the Basis rather than the others (a) because it was a watch, a timepiece with a LED display, bit just a bracelet, and (b) because it had more sensors and metrics - not just accelerometer, but also pulse, galvanic skin response, and skin temperature. However, I have not found anything really useful in the latter too, although I would love to find some patterns like "When am I anxious? When am I irritable?"

Moreover, the Basis software and website lag. They seem to have gotten even slower since Intel bought them. Sire there have been updates, such as being able to detect running and biking more or less reliably. But lacking an alarm, a buzzer, is a big problem.
Even decades ago, alarms on your watch were de rigeur. Not working with MyFitnessPal.com and my other QS devices is a pain. Not having an API so I can download and do my own analysis is a pain.

Considering a Jawbone UP24 for my daughter.


In my dreams:

GPS to track miles walked / run (I know, too much power for a 24hr/day activity tracker; available in fitness watches that are worn only while exercising)

How about:

Altimeter (barometer):

Years ago I loved my Avocet Vertech altimeter watch.
It was great for hiking and sking - not only to track vertical climbed or skied, but also really useful in determining location on map in pre-GPS days - and probably still in Oregon's step canyons and valleys.

Andy Glew said...

The Avocet Vertech altimeter watch ran days, months even, on a charge.
They say 2 years.

So probably good enough to be included in an activity tracker like my Basis watch or a Jawbone UP or a FitBit, which I typically charge every 2-4 days, if not with my morning shower.

Could correlate detection of walking or running to change in altitude. Fix the problem that my Basis thinks the calories expended are the same whether I walk on the level or climb up several thousand feet.

Mohamed Amine Bergach said...

Hi Andy,

In my opinion a simple image processing from your webcam and combined with some indications from your computer screen (what you doing) can provide you the right alarm that you want.