If logging your runs is the current peak of the quantified self, then sleep is the next big frontier, and Hello is pitching its new sleep tracker as the centerpiece of that. Sense with Voice builds on the original no-wearable design with new voice controls, smart home integration, and a growing amount of behind-the-scenes data courtesy of the company’s new Chief Scientist, Professor Matthew Walker, who I caught up with ahead of today’s launch. Turns out, there’s more to bad sleep than just nightmares.
Physically, the new Sense with Voice looks just like its predecessor. Revealed in 2014, the first Sense was as much abstract art as it was a health-tracking sensor, with its spherical shape and lattice design. Inside, a glowing light – triggered by waving your hand over the top – gives a color-coded insight into the conditions for rest in the room.
Sense with Voice keeps that aesthetic, but adds new hardware. Most obviously there’s now a microphone – in fact, multiple microphones with beam-forming and noise cancellation – which allows you to use an “Okay Sense” trigger command. After that, you can ask for a sleep report, set alarms, or check the sleep-status of your bedroom.
More importantly, perhaps, are the new sensors. Packed inside the orb is the ability to track UV light, carbon dioxide (CO2), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), light temperature, and barometric pressure. That’s in addition to the original’s light, humidity, temperature, air quality, and noise sensors.
The “Sleep Pill” – the sensor that clips to your pillow – has been redesigned as well. It’s apparently easier to attach, something that could be tricky with the first-generation design, and is “almost completely indestructible” according to Sense. Its battery lasts for two years.
Thanks to that “Pill” you don’t need to activate Sense with Voice when you’re going to bed. Unlike with other sleep-tracking devices or wearables, there’s no manual triggering of a sleep mode; instead, the idea is that the system spots you’re in bed and going to sleep automatically. However, there is one new interaction which you might want to play with before you snooze.
Sense with Voice adds smart home integration, initially Nest’s Learning Thermostat and Philips’ Hue connected lighting. Dubbed “Expansions” they can be controlled by speaking to the orb; however, they can also be triggered automatically. Sense could, for instance, set your thermostat to your preferred temperature when you wake up, and gradually raise the brightness on your Hue lights to simulate a gentle sunrise. Eventually, the company says, more Expansions will be added.
As before, there are Smart Alarms designed to wake you when you’re likely to feel most rested, and background sounds to help lull you in the first place. In the morning, you get a report showing how long you slept, what portion of that was considered sound sleep, and tracking interruptions like movement. Fairly unusually, however, Sense also gives insight into how the temperature, humidity, light levels, and other environmental factors in your bedroom might have impacted your overall rest.
Speaking to Hello’s new Chief Scientist, Professor Matthew Walker, ahead of Sense with Voice’s launch, the sleep researcher outlined some of the grander ambitions for the platform beyond just counting how many times you toss and turn each night.