Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Better Eyes Free Time Telling App

One of my first experiments in building Pebble watch apps was to create a program to "announce" the time using vibrations. The idea was simple: I wanted to be able to tell the current time without looking at my wrist. Truth be told, I haven't gotten a lot of use out of the app I built, though it was certainly fun to build and I think there's still value in the concept.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks that eyes-free time telling would be handy. Enter: Ben Galbraith:

Having observed first-hand that stealing glances at my watch or other clocks during a meeting does indeed create a negative impression on others, I experimented with several alternative ways to seamlessly manage time. While I did find some schemes that worked, especially when meeting with people in my own office, the thing I really wanted was what I saw all those years ago: a watch I could touch to tell the time. But despite my best efforts, I could never find one.

Ben, like myself, realized that the vibration facility on the Pebble watch could help crack this problem. Luckily for me, he developed a far more polished app than myself and it's one that I find myself truly benefiting from. The app can be downloaded here: Time Helper.

Here's how the app works:

... I created a Pebble app that vibrates with a distinctive pattern every quarter hour and, whenever I push a certain button, vibrates the number of minutes in the current hour. I spent a bit of time experimenting with different vibration timings and finally settled on something that worked well for me. Then I integrated the app (and the watch) in my work life to find out if it would actually help me.

So rather than my attempt at relaying the exact time to the watch-wearer, Ben just vibrates out the minutes. And he does so using a wonderfully simple method: for every minute, he blurts out one tiny vibration. This is brilliant, as it simplifies the problem (relaying only two numbers, 0 - 9) without really losing any functionality.

There are some other nice touches included: when the app runs, it looks like a standard watch face. This helps mask any indication that you're closely monitoring the time. The app also includes a 'focus' mode that causes the app to vibrate once a minute. At times when you're just about out of time, turning on focus mode helps, well, focus you on wrapping things up.

The source code for the app is found here. While Ben designed the app to work on his Pebble Steel, it works quite well on my Pebble Classic.

1 comment:

  1. That could be kind of some cool app and i hope that most people will use it