This version of the alarm clock is made by taking an existing alarm clock and modifying it to use light to wake the user instead of the standard sound. This is done by placing a switch on the speaker wire with one option using the speaker and one going to the created light circuit which controls LEDs built into modified sleeping mask. As of now, the 0.3 volts given by the speaker wire will go to a PICAXE microcontroller with its own power supply (3 volts given by a Joule Thief to save energy) which will slowly brighten the LEDs (yellow) until they are at full brightness, mimicking a sunrise. The alarm is turned off by a switch between the PICAXE’s power supply and itself and the snooze button is on the PICAXE to be more adjustable (as of now, the snooze is for 3 minutes and before starting, blinks the number of times the user has hit snooze so far).
This concept is similar to many commercially available alarm clocks although it is more user-friendly (the mask will only wake the user, not everyone in the room) and significantly more economical, as commercially available ones start at around $50 whereas mine is the cost of an alarm (~5$) plus less than ten dollars in parts.
The speaker is put on a switch so that the user can choose between the sound alarm or the light one.
The PICAXE microcontroller has been chosen for its low price and ease of programming. The use of a microcontroller instead of connecting the LEDs directly to the circuit via an op-amp allows me to slowly increase brightness and adjust settings in the programming.
This is Version 3 of my alarm clock. Here is a brief description of the earlier versions, pros and cons of each with any relevant notes:
V.1 – Used iPod Touch as alarm source. Because I was not able to have the alarm come only through the headphones and not through the main speaker, I built a reclosable sound-proof container to block the sound from the iPod itself with the headphone cable coming out. The headphones were modified so that they stayed on my ears while sleeping and wouldn’t be heard by other people in the room. A link can be found here.
Pros: It worked nicely in that it woke me up but not my roommate.
Cons: Headphones were extremely uncomfortable and system in general was awkward to use.
Notes: With all electronics removed, I had a sound proof container left over. Using it alone, I now use it as a Sabbath Alarm, which it has served me well as until it is replaced by V3.
V.2 – This was a wooden platform with an alarm clock built into it. The speaker was placed in the center with sloping sides exiting from it. The concept was that the pillow was placed over the entire system with the head guided towards the center (and therefore the speaker) which will prevent other people from hearing the alarm through the pillow and my head while I could hear fine as the head was pressed over the speaker. The controls to turn off the alarm were placed under a hinged door under the pillow, ensuring that I had to lift up my head (and wake up in the process) to tun off the alarm. The edges and bottom of the wooden platform were built to block sound in a similar way to V.1 although this version had the advantage of being pressed into a bed, a good sound dampener.
Pros: Much more comfortable, as I am basically using a pillow normally (although the sloped walls made the pillow a lot fluffier).
Cons: Speaker will still be heard for a moment when door is lifted to turn off alarm because then there will be no buffer
Notes: Ultimately it was replaced because I thought of a much better one that used light instead of sound. Besides being much easier to block, light will naturally tell the brain that it is morning and it is time to wake up, versus sound which just shocks the brain out of unconsciousness.