Hackaday Prize Semifinalist: A Device For Autism and Pomodoros

[jens.andree] found that many people on the autism spectrum have problems perceiving time. This makes the simplest tasks at home or at school harder. To help solve this problem, he’s created the Timstock Slim for this year’s Hackaday Prize. It’s a timer with four buttons to count down 5, 10, 15, or 20 minutes, with a neat LED bar graph showing the remaining time.

The Timstock Slim is an extremely simple device – it’s just an ATTiny84, a few shift registers, some LEDs, resistors, buttons, and a coin cell battery clip. It also does exactly what it says on the tin; it counts out a few minutes at a time, while providing visual feedback in the form of a bunch of LEDs.

Interestingly, this device may be useful to more than just those with autism; the pomodoro technique of time management uses a similar device – a kitchen timer – to keep its adherents on track. With no modifications at all, [jens’] Timstock could be used for a slightly modified pomodoro technique, geared towards 5, 10, 15, or 20 minute increments.

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11 thoughts on “Hackaday Prize Semifinalist: A Device For Autism and Pomodoros

    1. Sadly that’s not the case. Having brought up two autistic boys and working hard for them to attend “normal” school, time has always been a big issue since they totally lacked the perception of time until they became almost teenagers – and now we’re talking about knowing the difference between 5 minutes and half an hour. Longer periods is still a mystery to them.
      Now imagine having a list of tasks that’s on your desk that is basically what you’re supposed to do during this lesson, or perhaps the whole day, and you don’t understand what 10 or 15 minutes means?
      By pressing the correct button – either by number or colour – you now know how long time to spend with the current task because the device will tell you so, and also show you the relative progress whilst counting down.

  1. I don’t think I’m autistic (have some doubts) but I also have trouble tracking time. I want to build something like this, but in the meantime I run ‘watch -n 300 -x play /path/to/bell/sound -q’ in a shell script – it plays a gong sound every 5 minutes and reminds me time is passing :)

  2. I have mild aspergers and while I’d say I can track time relatively well, after one hour I am completely off. I tend to over estimate time, thinking it’s been longer than it really has been.

    Something like this that can be worn on the wrist that vibrates every 10 minutes might be perfect to sync the brain back up.

    1. I was thinking of using my Pebble smartwatch for this. Hadn’t thought of signalling via vibrations but this just sounds perfect with a short but noticeable vibration while not disturbing others.

    2. I made an early prototype for a digital Timstock with a Sony Smartwatch quite some time ago for my oldest son – which has helped him a lot since the smartwatch also tells him when his next class is and where it is, and gives him an alarm five minutes before with this information.
      I’ve got some info here bit it’s sadly all in Swedish…

      Timstock Slim is my contribution to the youngest ones with a need, but without a hefty price tag which virtually all “handicap aids” comes with…

  3. Like most people I only have trouble tracking time while on the internet. Perhaps the internet is an artificial form of autism. Which would explain how people behave a bit ‘odd’ when on the internet.

    (Don’t take this comment too serious, – which funnily enough is something you would have to say to someone with autism as well as to the people on the internet I understand, go figure.)

  4. Hmm. I could use one of those. I had a boss who would say, “Come into my office in 15 minutes.” Of course, I had NO idea how long 15 minutes was. (I made a timer program that would start bonging the TARDIS cloister bell in so many minutes.)

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