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Sense, by Hello Inc. is a sleep tracking thing, which I backed on Kickstarter last summer.

I’m a fan of Kickstarter. Enough to need to develop a spreadsheet tracking where projects I’ve backed are at, and then to turn it into a web-app that’ll get out of soft-release at some point.

For full disclosure: I kickstarted this project.
For full disclosure: I kickstarted this project.

Projects have many and variant qualities in communication. Some fall into the famed “silence trap” where the project stops sending out updates because they don’t have anything to say, and then feels they can’t send a small update after such a gap, and the gap grows in proportion to the desire for more information, so nothing ever gets said again. Some produce weekly updates, even if those are “We fell down a rabbit hole. It was dark, so we came back up. That was this week, sorry”

Hello Incorporated did fairly well at communicating until Christmas, when they announced a reasonable delay on a tight deadline project. Then they stopped communicating. Eventually we got the shipping notification, and then a short note about having some quality control issues, and then nothing again. This in addition to a late-stage decision to split delivery into “USA first, international later” after the originally announced “Backer Order” delivery stages did not make their community any happier. With a recent £25m investor round (Which – because of the laws of tech journalism – is possibly more likely 5m) the primary purpose of their Kickstarter was to create a community around their products, and by not communicating they’ve shot that in the foot somewhat. On the opposite end, you have people like Pebble, who despite a series of Grade-A fuckups, both avoidable and iceburgy in nature managed to keep an interested and dedicated community engaged enough to stay with them. There were malcontents – there always are – but Pebble handled their five month delay with greater aplomb than Hello has.

But that’s a dig at the process, and the process is only a part of the experience. In fact, what the world needs is to split Kickstarter product reviews into three parts, I think. First, the management of the campaign itself, for which I’m going to give Hello a fairly reasonable 5 out of 10. Good on the take-off, engaged on the landing, but a little shakey on the dismount.

The second score doesn’t apply here, because it would be for extras beyond the original product. A lot of Kickstarters go heavily into Stretch Goals, which split into Enhancements and Distractions. Both Order of the Stick and Doublefine got into trouble for having too many Distractions – T-Shirts and physical items took up a lot more of their time than expected – whereas project which have focused on a limited and planned set of possible Enhancements have done better, although that’s not without its own set of rabbit holes to fall down. Hello’s Sense campaign stuck with its offering, got 2.5 million of it’s 100k original request, no distractions or enhancements.

Which leaves us with the product itself.

The packaging displays an almost apple-like dedication to presentation
The packaging displays an almost apple-like dedication to presentation

The packaging for the sense is very much inspired by the Apple first-bite-with-the-eye method. A solid black cylinder opens up to a plinth display of the product, all of which lifts to reveal the cables and stuff underneath it. The object itself has a high attention to detail: The product glows with a soft green light when its happy, and a moderate red anger when less so.

Custom-moulded USB port
Custom-moulded USB port

Even the Micro-USB cable is custom moulded to sit flush against the case. A simple procedure via the app (for iOS and Android, both respecting their respective UI guidelines, and both well crafted) sets up the device over Bluetooth to connect to Wifi, and then over bluetooth with the sleep pill (Small bluetooth thing you connect to your pillow which does the actual measurement bit).


The glow is only animated while its trying to do something. In this case, it is booting
The glow is only animated while its trying to do something. In this case, it is booting

Though setup, the only problem I had was that the secondary pill for my partner (the packaging for which is the white disc under the black block above) requires a second install of the app on another device, which isn’t compatible with her iPad 2 (because it requires low-power bluetooth, which the iPad 2 & Mini don’t support). I ended up digging out an older Android device to set fyr’s account up on. For two-smartphone households, this wouldn’t be a problem, but it’s not ideal.

But then only sleep remains. It arrived this morning (I was, not without irony, woken up by my sleep tracker arriving. Thanks UPS), so apart from setting it all up I’ve no idea how the tracking does in real life. Right now it’s happily telling me the room is too bright to sleep in, slightly too humid, slightly too bright. None of which is a massive surprise to me. I’ll try it for a week or so (over a fortnight, because we’re out for Empire this weekend) and see how well it works.


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