Meridiem - Sound and light design
<Meridiem> is smart pillow with sound and light feedback to regulate users' breathing rhythm in order to encourage them to go to sleep and wake up. As a message carrier, sound and light are less informative than text and image but more intuitive. The 2-week project offers a great opportunity to explore a design discipline that haven't been massively implemented. 

Skill: Sound design | Tangible prototype | Video prototype
Duration: 2 weeks
Time: 2014 spring
With: Ionita Bogdan | James McIntyre | Thibault Moussanet 





Concept video


Design scenario walkthrough



1. Paring device




2. Activating sleeping breath therapy

3. Dynamic waking up breath therapy




Sound design

We introduced the empathy between people and the pillow by using sounds from natural, e.g. natural resonance and white noise, twinkling stars and the lullaby that mom sings to her child.

Apart from the dominant melody that introduces the rhythm of inhale and exhale, another layer of white noise (e.g. sound of streams) is used as a calming down ambient background.

Soundboard to communicate the style of sound: twinkling, lullaby, resonance and white noise


Breathing therapy sound spectrum mapping: comparison between calm down and wake up



Breathing therapy

Both breathing techniques are used in Yoga exercise as ways of calming down and waking up accordingly.

"Equal breathing" technique is introduced before going to bed, in which the exhale and inhale last for same amount of time. Accordingly,

"Skull shinning breathing" technique is used for waking up, where the user follows a progressively speed up rhythm of breath. 


Generative melodies

Generative melodies are applied to wake up sound, which reduce the tension of hearing a monotonous alarm every morning. The parameters are the data collected by the device inside using accelerometer, which represents user's sleep quality and movement.

Dynamic sound sketch with Pure Data

Static sound production: Keyboard + Ableton Live


Personal reflection

The project was in collaboration with advanced product design programme. I believe interaction design started with product design, and will eventually merge back to the physical world with a higher complexity. Human react to sound and light inherently. Making use of this intuition to convey messages is a very natural way to design interactions involve the body. Besides I very much enjoyed the short timeframe of the project. Not every design needs to be serious and save the world.


My contribution

I took the lead in sound design in the project from defining the sound board, creating sound in Ableton, making it interactive in Puredata and collaborative with the light prototype, as well as editing sound design explanation video.


Design process

Questions we proposed:

1. How to encourage people to wake up naturally? What's the alternative of a shocking alarm clock?
2. What if we can encourage people to go to sleep since the process of falling asleep determines partly of the sleep quality?





Our focus area is sleep. Several iterations of brainstorming and concept discussions was held during the process. We decided to focus on the artefact of a pillow because people already have a mental model of what a pillow is for and its nonintrusive feature offers great potential in natural interaction between people and the artefact. 




We simplified our scenario according to the essence of our concept. The main feature is to use breathing therapy as a natural way to regulate people's breath by following a specific pattern which is efficient to calm people down or wake people up. We decided not to look into the detail of setup interface when the device is connected to a computer. 



Light prototype

We tried several light colours to test and finally arrived at the conclusion that blue is the colour associated to night and yellow is to day. Light is used to enhance the breathing therapy even if the user has his eyes closed, he can still sense the changing of the rhythm from the light. Besides, light is introduced as a natural way to wake people up.





We used blue as the accent colour of the form design.