Designing The Companion App Of The Sleep Robot

Designing The Companion App Of The Sleep Robot

Similar to development of the Sleep Robot, the design of the app is a process of many iterations. Starting from the basic functionality: setting the breathing movement of the sleep robot and audio settings towards creating a personal tool that helps you understanding the Sleep Robot and improving your sleep habits. In this blog, I want to explain the challenges in our design process.

App Settings

The app will be used to set the different functionalities of the Sleep Robot to the user’s preference: the breathing movement and audio options. A brief introduction to both.

Breathing Settings

Someone’s breathing rate depends on physical and mental state as well habits. Some examples:

  • Professional athletes often breathe at a slower pace compared to those who never exercise.
  • Those who smoke a lot or consume high amounts of caffeine are more likely to breathe at a higher frequency
  • The level of stress is one of the most important variables for breathing rate. You might have experienced a stressful situation in which you noticed your breathing becoming faster or irregular, or even started to hyperventilate.

Thus, since the breathing rate is dependent on many different personal aspects, we want to provide the user with the possibility to adjust this setting. Next to that, there’s the breathing ‘ratio’, which is often described as a certain ‘pattern’ or implemented in a breathing exercise. Normally, you inhale, exhale and have a natural ‘pause’ in before you inhale again. When enlarging the duration of the exhalation, body and mind will relax.




These patterns have been implemented in breathing techniques as well. Do you know the breathing exercise of Dr. Andrew Weil? It’s slightly different with a pause in between the in- and exhale. By focusing on this pattern, people often fall asleep within no time. You might want to try that one tonight.




We are working on integrating different breathing patterns (created by experts and based on literature) as well. Do you think you want to use a validated pattern or create your own? We’d like to hear your preference. This feature will be included in a later update of the app.

Audio Settings

There are tons of music genres and everyone has a different preference. Personally I like jazz, but you might like classical music, the latest pop-hits or easy listening.. Does it make you fall asleep? I like to listen to a bedtime story, while my mother likes to listen to Chopin’s piano pieces.

Since everyone’s preference is so different, we cannot provide standard audio settings along with the breathing settings. Therefore, we will integrate playlists with music and sounds that, based on research, be relaxing and soothing to your ears and mind. We are currently co-developing a set of music samples, natural sounds (such as rain, wind and thunderstorms) and voice samples (such as someone that tells you random words that prevents your mind to think about personal issues, similar to the cognitive shuffling method by Dr. Luc Beaudoin).

Next to that, we want to provide you with the possibility to add your own music to the Sleep Robot’s SD card. Which music makes you fall asleep? Let us know!


We have been brainstorming and iterating on how to translate the above story into an understandable app design. We want to design an app that doesn’t overwhelm you, and still provide you with the possibility to adjust everything to your preference.

But do people want to adjust it, or do we have to tailor everything automatically? How do we find a balance between those who want to be guided and provided with standard settings, and those who want to be in control of every detail? Do we have to make different versions of the app (e.g. a basic- and advanced version), or keep it simple in general? And how to provide enough information in the app or via a manual?

All challenges are related to the user experience and interaction with app and robot. We have done many tests and interviews to find out what people want. Some responses:


  • “I want to practice the breathing techniques during the day as well”
  • “I want the robot to adjust to my own breathing rate”


  • “I love to listen to the sound of a storm in the rainforest, a playlist that I have found on Youtube”.
  • “It sounds weird, but I actually fall asleep by listening to rock music”
  • “Actually, I believe that silence has been proven the best to fall asleep”


App ontwerp


Iterations And Testing

We have tried many things in our process of designing the companion app. Different colours, different configurations, different ways to present the settings. We iterate a lot and test the designs in our team and during user tests (do people understand the interfaces, do they like it or get lost?). We have invited future users to come over to Delft, present the new designs to friends and family and have seen the design developing over time.

0806 App design

Final Design Or An Ongoing Process?

Currently, we are working on the software implementation of the final design. The design is based on the Somnox brand identity (soft, comfortable and clear) and the user’s desires on how to set the robot. We will guide the user by asking about the purpose of use (do you want to sleep or have a relaxing moment?) and desired duration of the movement. Not satisfied about the Sleep Robot’s movement? You will always be able to customize the breathing rate. In the future, we aim to add options if the user’s desire is there.

Some (pipeline)-ideas: adjusting the colour theme, adjusting the breathing movement, an integrated sleep diary, breathing exercises.. What (else) would you like to use?

Of course, we have not tested this app with all future users of the Sleep Robot yet. We will keep on asking for feedback to make sure we will update it. I’m curious to your opinion, let us know what you think.


Research update | A first impression and a review

Research update | A first impression and a review

After two months of die-hard developing and iterating to work towards a good testable prototype we finally managed to do this 2 weeks ago. After some thorough stress testing by the team, it was time to put it up to the test. Five lucky fans were chosen to sleep with our newest prototype for two nights, to get a first impression and give some feedback.

The prototype

We’ll handle the feedback later, first, we would like to tell you something about our newest prototype. As you might know, it’s quite important to have a silent bedroom when you’re trying to sleep. When the neighbors are watching a loud movie or playing music it can be really annoying. That’s why it’s so important that the sleep robot has to be very very silent. This was our biggest challenge, and after lots of prototyping, we finally managed to do this!

The results

So, what were the results of the first testing? Well, the first thing we noticed was that people didn’t know if the sleep robot was turned on or off when they had it in bed. It doesn’t seem like it, but this was actually really great news! This meant the noise the sleep robot made was so low, people couldn’t hear that it was on. Great!

But this meant some improvements were necessary as well, to let the user know the sleep robot is on. After each test sleeper, we decided to improve the prototype. So after the first one, we included lights to let the user know it’s breathing or not. Next, we improved the expansion of the breathing so you could feel it better, we changed the colors of the lights and we introduced music as well!

Aren’t we forgetting about something? Perhaps the most important thing: did they fall asleep faster? The answer is not a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for now. Because of the user interaction problems, in the beginning, we couldn’t conclude much about this topic. But what we see, after improvements, from the last few test sleepers is an upgoing line: a shorter time to fall asleep. Of course, the amount of test sleepers is not significant for now, but the first results are promising.

Review from a testsleeper

Marian, one of the testsleepers from last week, shares her experience with the Somnox sleep robot by the following review:

“Last week I got the chance to try out Somnox for 2 nights. I’m a very bad sleeper: falling asleep takes me an hour or longer most of the times and I wake up 3-4 times per night as well. So I was very curious if the Somnox could help me in some way.

After a clear instruction from Stijn, I set up the Somnox on a breathing frequency that felt comfortable for me. This was all easily done with the supplied smartphone. The Somnox felt quite heavy and firmly. First I thought this wouldn’t be pleasant, but it actually was. Due to its weight, the Somnox lays firmly on my mattress and it stays there. The shape is pleasant to hold. By tapping twice on the Somnox it turns on and I feel the breathing rhythm on my arms. This calms me down and I really fell asleep in 15 minutes. Magnificent!

So I wake up a few times per night, start to worry and then I want to turn on the Somnox again. But that didn’t work, the battery was empty, that was unfortunate. I think that at those moments I will fall asleep faster as well if Somnox would work through the night. I have given this as feedback to Stijn.

I’m curious for the further development of Somnox, if it’s on the market I’m interested for sure in buying one.”

In the upcoming weeks we’ll test with more and more lucky testsleepers and improve our prototype. If the prototype is totally user friendly and ready to rock, we’ll start the big testing round!

Stay up to date, follow our progress and maybe you’ll wake up with a robot one day!