Microsoft Garage is a community inside the company made up of self-described "hackers, makers, artists, tinkerers, musicians, inventors." The group has license to work on whatever projects that are outside of the company's usual project lines, and they've come up with some interesting apps. The most recent app, Mimicker Alarm, uses Microsoft's Project Oxford machine learning to wake you up.
Garage apps are often for platforms other than Microsoft's own Windows smartphones, and Mimicker Alarm is no exception. It's an Android app, and its primary function is to actively engage your brain as a method to get you up and out of bed.
Within the Mimicker Alarm app for Android, the latest release through the Microsoft Garage, three games may be the secret to clearing the cobwebs of sleep to wake you up – and keep you up. The games are also a way to show off several Microsoft Project Oxford machine learning APIs that focus on emotion, computer vision and speech.
The three games begin with "Express Yourself, which forces you to become conscious enough to engage your Android device's camera to take a selfie. In "Color Capture," you need to wipe away the gunk from your eyes well enough to play a color matching game. And "Tongue Twister" makes you tie a cherry stem with your tongue. No, actually, that's not true--the game actually requires you to use your brainpower to repeat a phrase with price enunciation.
Sounds perfectly diabolical to us.
“We’re a lot nicer than other alarms,” says Allison Light, a program manager on a team that develops apps for Project Oxford. “You start with dismiss or snooze. If you snooze, the default is five minutes to delay the game. If you dismiss, we mute the alarm – but then you have 30 seconds to complete this challenge. And if you don’t complete that game in time, we assume you’ve fallen back asleep and then the alarm will start ringing again. You only need to complete one game to shut off the alarm. You can choose the sounds and which games you want to play.”
Certainly, mornings do arrive to the best of us where waking up and getting active is a challenge. Using a smartphone to engage our brains more actively makes perfect sense, and getting an assist from Project Oxford's machine intelligence assets is a bonus. As is often the case, this Garage app is intended in part to show developers what can be done with Microsoft intelligence, and so the developers showcased various Project Oxford capabilities in putting the app together.
Light’s job is to think about the different applications that a developer would want to build, and how her team can give them good examples, using Project Oxford APIs. Since they’d already ventured into websites, they wanted to try out mobile apps.
“We tried to do games that are challenging in their own way,” Light says. “Tongue twisters, from a speech perspective, are hard. Especially when you’re just waking up, your tongue isn’t really awake yet. The ‘Color Capture’ game is challenging if you don’t have something of that color next to your bed. You might have to get out of bed and go to the living room to find it, and at that point you’re not going back to bed.”
We have to admit, we'd love to see the Microsoft Garage group put out some Windows 10 Mobile apps. We've said it a hundred times already and we'll say it yet again--we get the importance of Microsoft's cross-platform strategy, but giving some love to the company's own mobile platform woudn't hurt, would it?
In any event, you can get Mimicker Alarm from the Google Play Store as we speak. Go hit that install button and wake yourself up.