Julian, how would you describe Somnox in a single tweet?
“Somnox is the world’s first sleeping robot.”
What is your background? What were you doing before this?
“Ever since I was a child I have wanted to work with robots. I always dreamed of becoming a gyro gearloose type of character, which is something that is still signified by the R2-D2 poster in my room. I majored in Industrial Design at the TU Delft. Industrial Design works in close association with the Robotics Institute, where I spent a year doing a minor. It’s an experimental lab, that brings together three study associations, with each one of them approaching robotics in a completely different way.”
How and when did you come up with the idea for Somnox ?
“Somnox is mostly just a student project I worked on with three others, that ended up gaining a lot of traction. Currently the team counts twelve members, each one as intrinsically motivated as the next.”
Where does your personal fascination with sleep come from? What was your motivation?
“Two years ago, I learnt the effects of insomnia first hand. It starts off as a general weariness, but can ultimately lead to depression. Experiencing that is nerve-wrecking. I could not fathom that there was but a single solution out there, in the form of sleeping pills and made it my mission to develop an insomnia solution using robotics instead.”
What functionalities does Somnox have?
“Somnox helps users with falling asleep and waking up more energized, using technology that soothes both the mind and the body. To provide such a result, we work with breathing and audio exclusively. Somnox breathes in a way that soothes you personally as well as providing personalized audio, like a story or heartbeat. During the day, one can personalize Somnox using the accompanying mobile app.”
Why is Somnox personalized for use during the day?
“We do not want to be just another addition to the sleeping solution regimen. There is an enormous number of smartwatches, headphones, wake up-lights and apps out there. Often, they are just able to diagnose the sleeping problem that you were already aware of. The effect is the opposite of calming the user. What we are doing, is offering a solution that works in the right place; in bed. Somnox is controlled very intuitively by tapping it on the back, as predetermined in the mobile app. It can be relaxing to know that the rest will work itself out.”
What does Somnox look like?
“On first impression, it looks like a pillow, but honestly it is more like a plushy with some additional non-invasive functionalities. All you need to do for it to work is hold it closely. The feeling of matched breathing is based on Buddhist techniques, dating back thousands of years.”
What differentiates Somnox? Do you have any competition?
“There is no similar product to Somnox on the market right now. One could speculate that meditation is, in a way, our only competition. However, actual breathing exercises that have proven to be effective, tend to be difficult to perform. Somnox stimulates a realistic human breathing pattern, even matching the right amplitude and ratio.”
How long did it take to develop the product?
“We started around two and a half years ago and have been through quite many breathing studies, prototypes, user test and product iterations. The development of the perfect combination of form and functionality is continuous. However, with our Kickstarter campaign, the current focus is more so on tackling the market.”