Whenever I hear someone’s iPhone make a certain ring in public, I feel my spine tingle. That’s not just any ring. It’s The Ring. The Ring that wakes me up each morning, horrifically, and yes, necessarily. I’m a Pavlovian pet that should have been rescued by animal control years ago.
There must be a better way to wake up, and Mimicker Alarm, an Android app by Microsoft’s rapid-prototyping studio The Garage, wants to be it. You set Mimicker Alarm like any other alarm clock on your phone. The twist comes when it wakes you up: there’s no option to bury its shrill tone with a snooze. Instead, it forces you to get up and at ‘em with a task like saying a tongue twister, searching your room for a certain color, or make a certain face into the camera—the choice is yours when you set the alarm.
"Make a surprised face," the app commands. If you don’t try hard enough, Microsoft’s artificial intelligence will call you out. "You look too neutral, try again." The app will continue setting off alerts until you engage to its liking.
Honestly, just about every design detail of this app seems repulsive. From the "wakey wakey" message that just begs to be punched in the face, to the deeply flawed premise that anyone would want to see their 6am self looking back at them through their phone’s lens, it's just about the worst way I could imagine being coaxed out of bed short of an ice cold bucket of water.
But the more I think about it, the more I believe that confronting the horribleness of waking with a horrible app is entirely the point. Even the most perfectly designed alarm will quickly grate on your psyche, just as classical conditioning will inevitably link your favorite song, or a beautiful sunrise, or the gentle buzz of a Fitbit, with the full body ache of being transported from a dreamland into the waking one.
Mimicker Alarm seems to acknowledge that there’s no pleasant way to wake up, but for those who otherwise lack the self-discipline to get out of bed, it can at least be a more effective one. And since most of us despise selfies already, what is there to lose?