Reconnecting with nature every morning

Our lives might be a little better if our alarm clocks helped us start our day with a small dose of nature and a breath of fresh air. The idea behind Öron, an alarm clock developed by Karan Chaitanya Mudgal and Haoyu Li from the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CIID), was to try to do just that. They wanted to address city dwellers’ general lack of connection with nature, which is so crucial to maintaining our psychological and physical health.

From the time it began, urbanization has taken us away from the natural world and its accompanying sounds, rhythms and experiences. Karan Mudgal and partner Haoyu Li decided to address this issue, and set out to develop an everyday object that could reconnect users with the natural world.

Never before have more people lived in urban environments, and millions more join every year. According to the United Nations, the proportion of the global population living in cities has risen from today. By 2050, they estimate that 66% of the world’s population will live in cities.

Humans have a deep connection with nature that is necessary to maintaining our psychological and physical health

“Humans have a deep connection with nature that is necessary to maintaining our psychological and physical health,” says Karan Mudgal. “Urban living has caused people in cities to become disconnected with nature. Traffic, congestion, pollution, and the concrete blocks we live in have made people lose the feeling of being in the natural world.”

Haoyu and Karan decided to focus on a better way of waking up each day and developed an alarm clock they named Öron, or Ears in Swedish. It’s as analogue as possible, and reminiscent of an old fashioned radio. But instead of selecting different wavelengths, the user can instead scan through a variety of natural soundscapes ranging from whales in the sea to birds in a forest.

When the alarm activates in the morning, the user wakes up to these natural sounds, while a small fan inside the clock blows cool air in their direction, mimicking the sense of waking up outdoors. Compared to being woken abruptly by a jarring mobile phone alarm, it’s a much more serene way to start the day.

According to the United Nations, the proportion of the global population living in cities has risen from 30% in 1950 to 54% today. By 2050, they estimate that 66% of the world’s population will live in cities.

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