High-low tech: WATCH, GPS & PAGER

Want to ditch your smartphone but not its useful features ?
3 simple devices to use technology in a meaningful way

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// is :

⛛ — SABLIER is a stopwatch-like device. It vibrates every five minutes to let you notice time passing.
⭕ — BOUSSOLE is a compass-like device. It guides you to five locations of your choice.
⬡ — SIFFLET is a pager-like device. It sends short melodious messages that you compose buy moving it to another SIFFLET device.

Usually hidden behind opaque plastic, the PCB is the heart of modern technology. These devices aim to open technologies that we use everyday. Through 3 services — time keeping, orientation and communication — the 3 objects from // offers you new ways to experience technologies. It works smartphones burden: no notifications, no e-mails, no ads, no privacy concerns, no battery hassle.


This project is born from the observation that modern technology that was once only used in the workplace, is now an integral part of the life of occidental individuals. We all carry one or many smartphones but we don't use them only for productivity. Our entertainment, social life, memories, etc depends on services that we access on our phones or personal computers. This is great for the fast world we live in but we may not be able to sustain this way of life.

First, many services provided through or screens are commercial services. Even if they are free (as in free beer) we do pay with something else: our attention and our data. Both are used for advertising. We spend time watching ads on social platforms and on the web, and platforms get paid for this time. Our data is used to tailor the ads we see so the platforms  can get paid even more. This financial model pushes the platforms to design their services in a way that maximize the time the user spends on it. In my opinion, this is where lies the problem. Everything is made to make the user stay one the platforms : disappearing content, likes, shares, infinite scrolling, notification, and more. The more time we spend, the more ads we see, the better the platforms knows us. And with that we see mental health consequences, mainly with young people : Fear Of Missing Out, leading to addiction, anxiety, isolation, and maybe depressions. Not everyone is impacted the same way, but information overload is not something our brain is made to deal with. Many are now calling for a tech diet in our personal lives.

Second, as more and more technologies make it into our lives, the less we understand it. With the search for performance and miniaturization, tech is becoming even more complex. This complexity is makes repairing difficult, if not impossible or prohibited. In many situations repairs done by the manufacturer can be more expensive than buying a new product. And even when repairs are affordable, in the case of electronics, whole boards are discarded even if only one component has failed. This leads to waste that is difficult to recycle. The lack of knowledge on our products is contributing to unnecessary consumption. In a way we never own fully our tech product.

These two observations led me to build this project. It may not be a perfect answer, but I want to propose an alternative to our actual usages and habits of our tech. // may not be for the broader public yet, but I hope to reach to hobbyists and individuals who are already adopting a 'tech diet'.

// uses three principles to address these issues:

- high specialization

- simplicity

- openness

High specialisation means that it is near impossible to make the device do something other than it was programmed for (ie, showing ads and/or extract personal data).

Simplicity means that our devices will be easily understandable and repairable.

Openness means that you are free to use, copy, understand, repair, modify and distribute your modifications of this project. Hopefully this will prevent this project of becoming obsolete.

These principles and observations led to what // is now.



Design files:


Design files :


Design files:


This project is under the MIT license : SABLIER, BOUSSOLE, SIFFLET

3D models and PCB footprints from KiCAD (GPLv3)

Arduino core and libraries (GPLv2) are in use in this project (firmware)

... Read more »


Electrical schematic for the SABLIER

Adobe Portable Document Format - 167.84 kB - 08/25/2019 at 12:52



Electrical schematic for the SIFFLET

Adobe Portable Document Format - 192.87 kB - 08/25/2019 at 12:52



Electrical schematic for the BOUSSOLE

Adobe Portable Document Format - 197.95 kB - 08/25/2019 at 12:52


  • 3 × ATmega328 Microprocessors, Microcontrollers, DSPs / ARM, RISC-Based Microcontrollers
  • 3 × LIR2450 Rechargeable 120mAh LiPo coin cell
  • 3 × MCP73831 Power Management ICs / Power Supply Support / LiPo charging
  • 1 × Vibration motor
  • 1 × M41T62LC6F Clock and Timer ICs / Real-Time Clocks

View all 8 components

  • Quickly prototyping my circuits

    Antoine Pintout08/25/2019 at 12:36 0 comments

    Once I had the functionalities well defined for each of the three devices, I started to prototype, or more accurately, sketch each of my devices on breadboards. The firsts consisted just of cheap knock-of Arduinos with buttons, LEDs and the few specific actuators or sensors I needed. It was great to test each device in a controlled way. But I needed to be closer to an actual circuit that I could put on a PCB no bigger than a hand palm.

    The next step was to get rid of the Arduinos and get instead a bare ATmega328. I redid my circuits using a mix of bare chips "dead-bugged" and breakout circuits from Adafruit, Sparkfun or NavSpark.

    I also prototyped a charger circuit for the LiPo I wanted to use. This PCB conveniently fitted very well on the breadboards. You can get it on the this repo : LiPo Charger

    I tried to have an aesthetically satisfying cable management as I knew that I may have to show it here. I associated color with function : blue if for the clocks, yellow for reset, orange for interrupt sources, green for data, and red/white for power.

    You can see that i glued my vibration motor to some cardboard to try to feel what a vibration would be like. I ended up cutting all my shapes onto cardboard to figure out an ideal shape for each device.

    To flash the ATmegas, I remixed one of my previous projects : a Arduino UNO hat that breakout ISP signal with a proper voltage level shift. Indeed, I figured out that I needed to work at 3.3V instead of the standard 5V for classic Arduino boards. This ended up causing some problems, but thanks to that setup I could quickly figure out what went wrong. 

    One of the problems I had was that high speed SPI between one of my sensor and my MCU was not working. At the time I didn't know that the SPI bus was the cause of the malfunction. But a quick detour to an oscilloscope showed me that the signal was not reaching the high threshold. I figured that the pull-up resistors used by default on a Sparkfun break out were to large. This was an amazing learning opportunity as I was able to test multiple resistor values and immediately see the consequences on the signal.

    I settled on a value of 1K. This may not be ideal, as it may increase power consumption of the whole device. But this is not the time for optimisation. This was the only oscilloscope of my school, but nobody used it, so I kept it. It saved me lots and lots of time in the development process (I returned it at the end of the semester =) ).

    I finally did a dual one so I could work on the LoRa modules outside of the studio where all my project was. You can see that the hat I made was also used to get some power in and some UART serial out of the ATmegas to my computer for debug purposes.  

    With this setup, remixed several times to accommodate new sensors, I got a better idea of the real estate I needed from my PCBs and how small my devices could be. I ended up using those to develop the base of the my firmwares, as the electrical circuits should be no different from the PCB I draw and ordered.

    With all the interfaces and sensors/actuators figured out, I was able to go to a mechanical validation phase. But that is for the next log !

    Until next time,
    be good !


  • Usage design

    Antoine Pintout08/24/2019 at 13:08 0 comments

    On your phone, to access navigation you need to start an app, input your destination, chose a transport, chose an itinerary and then start the trip. That's around 8 taps from the home screen and some text input. That's a lot of actions. I want my devices to be really direct in their use.

    To have this directness, I have to conceive very specialized devices instead of a generalist device (like a smartphone).

    The interface must be simple, the functionality will also be simple. And this falls perfectly in my goals to build resilient devices.

    One, button, one action

    For the SABLIER I wanted to distance myself from other common devices that keep the time. I also wanted to design another perception of time. I came with this idea to notify the user every 15 minutes. I found that vibration was the less invasive way to achieve it. It is important for me that the user must be able the control the device : a single button will enable the user to start the device and control the moment of the first pulse. After 8 hours, the device will shut down.

    With this behavior, the user is free to count the pulses or just feel it. The day is therefore divided by 3 ( 3 × 8h = 24h ). With some getting used to SABLIER, the user should be able to anticipate a pulse. SABLIER could be use to test one's perception of time.

    It think the BOUSSOLE may be the most playful device of the 3. I always was frustrated that a compass only indicates the north and not the direction I wanted to go to. BOUSSOLE should be straightforward, you're in a place, you save it in the device, you go elsewhere, you recall this place with a single press of a button, you follow the direction shown be the device, you go to the place. One button, one place, one device, three places, I don't think we need more.

    With that, you can save a place that serves as your base and you can start exploring, you can always return to your home, camp, AirBnB, friends flat. This device is meant for exploring, not productivity or efficiency. By only showing a direction, you have to choose your own path. Hopefully discovering some interesting things along the way. 

    SIFFLET is the most intimate. Due to the desire to have highly specialized devices, this one cannot serves all forms of communication. I chose to design this one to be only shared between significant others, or between a parent and its child. You can express a lot through music, I want to make SIFFLET a real instrument to show one's feeling. With an accelerometer I can modulate a sound and introduce rhythm only with movements. The accelerometer data is transmitted by a wireless connection to the other device and then modulated in a sound that the other user can hear and then respond in its own way. There will be only one button to start and stop the melody.

    There was another version of this device in my original research. It used potentiometers to set 5 notes and a button to send it. It was not great because it was not direct. If you wanted to preview it I had to use another button on the thing and it was as "simple" as the other devices. So I found another way to generate music, and it was with the accelerometer.

    One the next log I'll give you an overview of how I sketched the shapes and mechanically validated my designs.

    Be good,


  • Resilience

    Antoine Pintout05/22/2019 at 13:51 0 comments

    An important element of my project is to develop very durable and resilient devices. Openness and minimalism are two of the main design features allowing these goals.

    By opening the sources of my project, the three objects become reproducible and easy to repair. By simplifying its electronics and using affordable and well documented chips or modules, the repairability is even greater. These choices will influence the design of non-electronic parts as they also need to be durable and reproducible. The choice of material and its drawings will also be fondamental in order to convey durability and resilience.

    As a consequence of these choices their experiences will also be very different from what we are used to:
    The time-keeping device will not give you exact time. It gives an absolute sense of the passing of time by vibrating every 5 or 30 minutes.
    The navigating device will not instruct you to go left or right. It will indicate the general direction of your destination, so that you can decide which path to take.
    The communication device will not transmit text or voice. It will send small melodic messages.
    A great attention will be given to senses and each device will provide specific sensorial stimuli: vibrations for touch, visual cues for sight and sound for hearing. 
    Each device resilient and independent from any global network or corporation. Finally, by being low-power, each device is freed from high level depedency from battery capacity. 

    Next time, I'll detail the functionality of each device.

    Until next time,
    be good,

  • Genesis

    Antoine Pintout04/25/2019 at 09:16 0 comments

    Welcome to this first log entry !

    I started to work on this project a couple of months ago. It’s a self-initiated project that I'm developing in the framework of my degree in product design.
    I was born with computers. I’ve always found it easy to work with different types of technology. That’s why I decided to develop a project in this field.

    When it comes to everyday use, I'm not convinced that the way we interact with technology is the best. I noticed that my daily consumption of tech can be limited to only two devices: my phone and my computer. They can satisfy all the tasks I need in my daily life : staying in touch with friends, work with partners, takings notes, quickly finding informations about anything, making calculations, navigating in a city, capturing memories, reminding us upcoming events, etc. They suit our needs when we have to be efficient but when we just want to relax and disconnect, they can become really intrusive.

    illustration from the thelightphone project

    Read more »

View all 4 project logs

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Bart wrote 01/04/2020 at 17:23 point

what buzzer did you use? I could not find the part listed

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benjamin wrote 12/20/2019 at 12:58 point

Purée c'est super beau !! Le laiton et le soldermask bleu c'est magnifique. Tu n'as pas eu le courage d'implementer la radio LoRa directement sur le PCB ? (ça aurait été fantastique de ne pas avoir ce module en plus)
Bref... bravo !

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Michael Kafarowski wrote 06/18/2019 at 02:18 point

I really like the idea of devices that give a "general sense" of things. Sometimes the best things in life come out of times of spontaneity. You could follow Google Maps and get there fast, or go "that way" and discover new things along the journey. Best of luck in the development!

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Antoine Pintout wrote 08/24/2019 at 12:49 point

Thanks !

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lorene.gaydon wrote 05/22/2019 at 08:00 point

très beau projet ! hâte de voir le diplôme,


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Antoine Pintout wrote 05/23/2019 at 11:40 point

Merci !

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yves wrote 05/21/2019 at 14:48 point

Hate de voir le resultat

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Antoine Pintout wrote 05/21/2019 at 22:11 point

Merci, moi aussi !

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Gerben wrote 04/18/2019 at 09:27 point

Both urls don't seem to work.

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Antoine Pintout wrote 04/19/2019 at 13:22 point

Yes indeed, I don't have anything up just yet. This will come soon :)

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Gerben wrote 04/19/2019 at 13:26 point

Great. I was worried it was a typo.

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