The project described here was never finished. The site has been archived for posterity.

I've already talked about products I made in the past, and why I'm working on this website. Let's finally talk about what product I'm making next! You've probably read the title, so this isn't going to be a surprise: It's a wake-up light.

What's a wake-up light?

A wake-up light is an alarm clock that gently wakes you up over time with a gradually brightening light, instead of a harsh sound at a specific instant. Typically in a way that simulates a sunrise.

I've also seen those called "sunrise alarm clock" or "light alarm clock".

Why a wake-up light?

I would have liked to go with something simpler. Any product that involves electronics will likely require certification, which is a big unknown for me. I've been considering a purely 3D-printed product to circumvent that, but couldn't come up with a convincing idea.

In the end, I decided to go with the wake-up light:

  • I have used multiple wake-up lights myself, and have a clear vision about what I would like to see improved.
  • I have experience working with firmware, electronics, and 3D printing. So while this project is certainly going to be more difficult than I'm imagining it right now, I'm confident that I can overcome any technical hurdles.
  • The firmware and electronics aspect also provides some good opportunities for differentiating my product from others on the market.
  • While product certification is more than I'd like to take on right now, it's definitely something I want to learn about eventually.
  • If certification proves too problematic, I can fall back to selling the product as a kit, or even as a purely digital build-it-yourself guide.

Who is this for?

It's for me.

That answer is a cop-out. I'm not a target market. However, and I know this from experience, finding a suitable target market can be hard and takes time. I'd like to sidestep that for now.

I don't expect the wake-up light to be financially successful. I'm doing this to learn more about the process of creating a physical product. I'm hoping that I can manage to sell some, but that's not a hard requirement.

What's going to make it different?

I currently use a wake-up light that I'm not happy with:

  • The timing is very inaccurate. It's gaining multiple minutes per week.
  • Its clock display is too bright for my taste, to the point that I've turned it off completely.
  • The actual wake-up light is not bright enough. It's not completely ineffective, but can be ignored easily.
  • Changes in brightness and color are relatively abrupt, with clearly noticeable steps. This looks weird and cheap.
  • There are better ones on the market, but from what I've seen, they make assumptions that conflict with how I would like to use them.

I intend to fix all of that with my wake-up light. On top of that, it will be open source and freely programmable, allowing users to adapt its behavior to their needs.

The first prototype

I want to get to a working product as soon as practical, then improve upon that incrementally. To that end, the first prototype is going to be very simple. So simple, in fact, it won't even be a wake-up light yet.

It's going to solve a single problem: give me a digital clock display next to my bed that is just bright enough to read in the dark.

I haven't finalized my plans yet, but I think I'll go with simple 7-segment displays. I don't think I'll even include a means to adjust the brightness, except by re-flashing the firmware.

What now?

My next steps are to finalize the feature set of the first prototype, figure out which components I'm going to use, then order those.

While I wait for the components, I can already start looking into the firmware. Once the components are here, I can start building a breadboard prototype. With that ready, I can start testing.

I expect the testing to go on for a while. I'll probably need to adjust the brightness a few times, observe the accuracy of the timekeeping, and make other fixes as required. While that is going on, I can start designing the enclosure.

We'll see how things go after that. In any case, I'll keep you folks updated here!

I'm making a wake-up light