Meet Microsoft Mimicker, an Android alarm clock app from the Microsoft Garage skunkworks that forces you to play a short game before you can make it stop chiming.

Seriously. Sometimes, Mimicker asks you to take a selfie that matches a mood. Sometimes, it might ask you to take a picture of something green. Sometimes, you might have to say a tongue twister.

microsoft mimicker

It doesn’t sound like a lot of fun to me.

But I can still appreciate the technology under the hood: Mimicker uses Microsoft’s Project Oxford machine learning technology to understand the emotions in your selfie, recognize the colour green in your photos, and identify correctly that you’ve said the tongue twister properly.

So, yes, it’s silly. It’s also another roadsign on the way to smarter machines. I just hope that the robots let me sleep in a little.

Not only are the games a fun way to wake up, but they are also a way to show off Microsoft Project Oxford machine learning APIs that focus on emotion, computer vision and speech.

‘We’re a lot nicer than other alarms,’ says Allison Light, a program manager on a team that develops apps for Project Oxford. ‘

‘You start with dismiss or snooze.’

‘If you snooze, the default is five minutes to delay the game.’

‘If you dismiss, we mute the alarm – but then you have 30 seconds to complete this challenge.’

If users fail to complete the game in a certain amount of time, the app assumes you fell asleep and will start blaring the alarm again.

Only one game is needed to shut the ringing off, and you have a choice at the game you want to play and sounds you want to hear for the alarm.

The Project Oxford gives developers the ability to add intelligence into apps without having to be knowledgeable in artificial intelligence.

‘It’s one example of how Microsoft is democratizing artificial intelligence and pursuing its vision for more personal computing experiences using systems that are progressing toward seeing, hearing, speaking and understanding the complex nature of human interaction,’ according to a recent press release.

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