Microsoft's Mimicker Alarm App Powered By AI - InformationWeek
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1/22/2016
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Microsoft's Mimicker Alarm App Powered By AI

Microsoft's Garage Project team has cooked up a new alarm clock app for Android smartphones that forces users to make faces or play games to turn it off. What's most interesting about Mimicker Alarm is not what it makes people do, but how it uses artificial intelligence to determine the actions.

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There's no snoozing allowed for users of the Mimicker Alarm, the latest effort from the sadists in Microsoft's Garage Project.

Microsoft's new alarm clock app for Android devices goes the extra mile to make sure you're awake. Rather than rely on a switch to turn it off, it can only be silenced if the user plays a simple game that Microsoft calls a Mimic. The game is powered by artificial intelligence.

Like any alarm, the Mimicker Alarm lets users choose the exact time they want to be awakened. It supports daily and one-time alarms, and includes a number of alert sounds and tones.

That's where the similarities end. Few alarms work the way Mimicker does.

"To dismiss your alarm, you must mimic the action given. We might ask you to snap a selfie, speak a phrase, or even get out of bed," said Microsoft. The actions include matching expressions, capturing colors, and completing tongue twisters.

(Image: InnerVisionPRO/iStockphoto)

(Image: InnerVisionPRO/iStockphoto)

"The Mimics require you to be alert, smart, and use you and your surroundings, so be ready to move." Moving is typically the last thing sleepers wish to do early in the morning. What's worse, the response is timed. Mimicker assumes users who don't complete the game quickly enough have fallen back asleep, so the alarm will go off again.

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To complete the horror show, Mimicker will let users share their results with friends. This way, everyone can get a glimpse of that nasty case of bed-head. Microsoft apparently wants everyone to share the worst versions of themselves for a good laugh.

You can see it for yourself here:

What's most interesting about Mimicker Alarm is not what it makes people do, but how it goes about determining the actions. Microsoft's team built the app using Microsoft Project Oxford, which is a platform of artificial intelligence APIs. For example, the Emotion API powers the Express Yourself game (mimic emotions), and the Speech API determines if users get the tongue twister right. The Computer Vision API analyzes colors in the color-capture Mimic game.

Moreover, any images, sounds, or video generated and shared by users is uploaded to the Project Oxford APIs to help bolster their functionality. Microsoft says that the uploaded data is anonymized and that the company will not use it to identify or contact users. The code for Mimicker Alarm is available via GitHub. There, interested parties can view the source, file issues, and contribute Mimics, if they desire to.

Microsoft's Mimicker Alarm is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Will you give this app a try? Do you know someone who could benefit from this kind of wake-up torture? Or do you consider this a violation of the Geneva Convention? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio

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mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
1/26/2016 | 6:36:23 PM
wake up
Sounds interesting. I have hard time to wake up in the morning. So, I might give it a try. I'll report the results pretty soon.
Whoopty
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Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
1/25/2016 | 8:26:49 AM
Hmm
Although I like how this solution seems to be thinking outside of the box when it comes to waking people up, the fact that it automatically uploads what you say and do to be analysed further means this is a no go for me. I don't want anything I do or say before I properly wake up being recorded. 
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
1/23/2016 | 12:37:31 PM
Mimic this
Voice recognition is often so bad on phones that the asking to complete tongue twisters aspect alone sounds horrible.

In any case, is this really true AI, or more an aspect of machine-learning?  Or, conversely, just very well programmed software?
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