Brown University, 2003 - $18,000
Many people wake up to sleep inertia, a groggy condition that negatively affects temper, basic mechanics, and reflexes. While a night's sleep consists of three phases (light, deep and REM sleep), recent studies indicate sleepers suffer from the worst sleep inertia when woken from deep sleep, and the least when woken from light sleep.
Taking advantage of this information, the Axon Potential E-Team developed a smart alarm clock that wakes the user only during light sleep by monitoring eye movements. After setting the latest possible wake-up time, the user goes to bed wearing an eye movement-monitoring band around his or her forehead. The band wirelessly transmits the user's sleep information to the alarm clock for analysis. The device sets a wakeup window based on the information and triggers the alarm only when eye movements indicate the person is in a light stage of sleep.
The E-Team consisted of six undergraduates with majors in cognitive neuroscience, computer science, public and private sector organizations, computer engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering. Four professors with expertise in psychiatry and human behavior, engineering, technology planning, and marketing guided the students.
Update: The team, now incorporated as Zeo, enjoyed several start-up successes. The company raised two rounds of funding as it completed prototyping and preparing for a product launch. Most recently, Zeo was chosen from among forty-five other companies as the winner of the 2006 Rhode Island Business Plan Competition, receiving over $55,000 in cash and services. The company also formed a strong board and group of advisors, including Harvard sleep scientists, the former president of Bose, and several others. Zeo's novel alarm clock has been featured in a number of media, including the Boston Globe, BBC, NPR, New Scientist Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, Providence Journal, Yahoo! News and several others. See www.myzeo.com for more information.
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