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Better sleep: Cuddling with the robot next to you

Interview with Hylke Martens, Data Analyst & Event Manager at Somnox

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European Business: Sleep, or lack of sleep, is a major issue in our society. How, of all things, did you come up with a robot as a solution?

Hylke Martens: People are becoming more and more aware of their own quality of life. Sleep is a huge, but relatively unknown, factor that significantly impacts your quality of life, or at least the perception of it. During the TU Delft Robotics Minor we were challenged to create a soft robotic device that helps solve a specific problem. The four founders Julian Jagtenberg, Stijn Antonisse, Wouter Kooyman Van Guldner and Job Engel all know friends or family who have trouble sleeping or falling asleep and have to use sleep medication to fall asleep or stay asleep during the night. While discussing ideas for the minor project, the plan arose to create a non-medicinal solution for those problem sleepers. The Somnox Sleep Robot was born.

European Business: Many products promise better sleep. How exactly does the Somnox Sleep Robot work?

Hylke Martens: The Somnox Sleep Robot works by regulating your breathing movement. You cuddle the Sleep Robot and feel the breathing movement instantly. By doing breathing exercises without consciously knowing it, you automatically try to synchronize with the robot and it will calm you down. A user that is calmer and more at rest than he/she was before will fall asleep faster than someone doing the same breathing exercises consciously. This solution is unique in the market right now and works on physical feedback.

European Business: The Somnox Sleep Robot does not resemble a typical robot in regard to its design. Did you have a cuddly toy in mind?

Hylke Martens: The shape of our sleep robot, sometimes called a bean or pillow, certainly does not look like your traditional robotic device. It is based on the stylized shape of the spooning position of two people in bed where the user is spooning with the Sleep Robot. We chose this design because we wanted every user to feel comfortable in bed and to have a sense of affection with it. The feeling of natural shapes and materials is easier than having to lie in bed with a clunky metal box-shaped robot. It is our vision that robotic devices intended for personal use will not look like the traditional robots we know today but more like Baymax for example in the Walt Disney movie ‘Big Hero 6’.

We chose this design because we wanted every user to feel comfortable in bed and to have a sense of affection with it. Hylke MartensData Analyst

European Business: It’s great that people can rest better thanks to Somnox. Have you received feedback about how partners cope with its presence on the other side of the bed?

Hylke Martens: That’s a great question and it’s something that we are still very curious about. Our initial tests showed that there are couples that use the Sleep Robot together and they gave some very positive responses. But we are more than happy to receive more feedback for us to evaluate upon.

European Business: Who uses Somnox more often: Men or women? What do you think might be the reason for a gender-related difference?

Hylke Martens: We do see more female users at the moment. Although, men with symptoms of stress and anxiety who try the robot tend to like the experience as well. Most of our users are just very happy that our Sleep Robot helps them to sleep better and become a calmer person. This enhances the relationship for both partners.

Interview: Markus Büssecker | Pictures: Somnox

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