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Inventor of the Week

Nanda

Clocky

NandaFew would deny that the first thing they do when the alarm clock goes off in the morning is hit that snooze button—and go right back to sleep.

An ingenious creation by inventor and entrepreneur Gauri Nanda is aimed at making the alarm clock a little bit harder to ignore. The clock has a mind of its own, so to speak: after it goes off, if the user hits the snooze button, it literally jumps off the table, rolls away, and hides elsewhere in the room, forcing the user to get out of bed and find it when the alarm sounds again minutes later.

Nanda came up with the product, dubbed "Clocky," as a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she participated in the MIT Media's Lab's Object-Based Media Research Group. Born in Rochester Hills, Michigan, in 1980, she earned a B.S. from the University of Michigan and entered MIT's media arts and sciences program where she focused on electronics-embedded clothing. She completed her M.S. in 2005.

Nanda created Clocky in 2004 when asked to create a practical product for an industrial design course. She was somewhat taken by surprise when the device attracted a great deal of attention after its description was posted, along with dozens of other student projects, on the Media Lab Web site. Several trend-watching blogs and Web sites such as Engadget took note of the Clocky concept and soon had introduced thousands of potential customers to the device through photos and links online.

Nanda designed Clocky to be able to roll off a bedside table to the floor, buffered by rubber wheels and shock-absorbing materials. She gave it the ability to bump into objects and find its way to a resting place several feet away from the owner's bed. A computer chip inside the device randomly programs its route each time the user hits "Snooze" so it won’t end up in a predictable spot. She also gave it a fuzzy outer covering and a face, in an attempt to "humanize" the technology.

After her project appeared online, she began receiving emails from people around the world interested in buying, distributing, or investing in Clocky. She'd originally had no intention of developing it for distribution. The response from the public convinced her that she had a potentially very successful product on her hands, however. She secured patent protection with the help of MIT (a patent is pending on Clocky as of this 2007 writing), and set out to start her own business.

She founded Nanda Home with support from her family and began preparing Clocky for mass production. Improving the product meant working with engineers to find strong, yet light, shock-absorbing materials, refine function and durability, and redesign the product's exterior to make it as appealing to customers as possible. She also outsourced production and manufacturing to a facility in Hong Kong.

Just two years after she started, Nanda has sold more than 35,000 Clocky units. Available in white, blue, mint, and orange, the device retails for around $50 and is available through NandaHome.com and a variety of boutiques and local retailers. Nanda is looking to expand distribution through partnerships with retailers such as Brookstone and Sharper Image.

Nanda has made numerous national media appearances in newspapers and magazines and on television programs such as "Good Morning America." She also gained attention by winning the Ig Nobel Prize for Economics in 2005 for "Clocky." She has several other products in the works in addition to Clocky, all designed to bring technology into everyday life in unexpected ways. Currently, Nanda Home sells "laptop cozys" for protecting personal, portable computers, and stylish handbags designed for carrying laptops along with personal belongings.

[August 2007]

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