Canopy is a portable napping environment with a built-in reminders system.

  • Context: Class Project
  • Role: Research & Development
  • Partner: Hongnan Lin (Design & Development)

By combining a stylish hooded pillow with a microcontroller, Canopy aims to help sleep-deprived students or professionals who need a comfortable environment for sleeping in public.

Summary of problem statement and use case

Problem Space


Sleep deprivation is common in the US. In average, Americans get 6.8 hours of sleep, less than the recommended 7-8 hours. 

Lack of sleep affects the body in multiple ways: it causes depression, impairs our perception and judgment and causes health problems and accidents.

Research shows that napping can counteract some of these cognitive and performance effects. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough infrastructure in place that supports napping at work or school.


Proposed Solution

Our approach to this problem is to provide a portable napping environment, with with a built-in reminders/alarm system.

First, we wanted to design a pillow that is ergonomic: it must be comfortable to use, easy to carry (has a handle) and lightweight. It should also provide privacy to the user while they're asleep, plus a secure pocket for their valuables.

For the electronics, we used the following hardware components:

  • Huzzah Feather ESP8266 for controlling and powering the different components
  • Neopixels are placed on the hood to wake up the user with blue light
  • A speaker to wake up the user with sound. 
  • A vibration motor is placed against the user's neck so the user can be alerted when to wake up.
  • An accessible button is on the neck strap for easily turning off the alarms
  • A phone app that sets a nap timer for up to 30 minutes. Research shows that napping beyond half an hour induces drowsiness and do not have significant benefits. In addition, we assumed that users will have their personal phones, which we wanted to leverage.


Photo taken from  Sleeping at Tech  Facebook group

Photo taken from Sleeping at Tech Facebook group

Observational research

We observed students on the Georgia Tech campus to understand public napping habits. The most obvious problem was the lack of comfortable spaces for napping. We also observed students leaving phones and laptops around them, which may be prone to theft.



Ostrich Pillow

Ostrich Pillow


We analyzed related similar products in the market, such as travel pillows. The most notable is the Ostrich, which combines both portability and privacy. While the pillow excels in these areas, we strived for a form that looks more socially acceptable and can easily incorporate electronics.


Ideation session

Based on our findings, Hongnan and I held several ideation sessions to identify the main user issues and brainstorm potential solutions.

Whiteboard for collaborative brainstorming

Whiteboard for collaborative brainstorming

Sketches demonstrating various concepts

Sketches demonstrating various concepts


Eventually, we converged on the idea of a neck pillow that had various ways (lights, sounds, tactile feedback) of interacting with the user.


Interaction Flow

To prioritize functionalities based on user needs, I created a list of features that we will implement.

Simplified feature list

Simplified feature list


I also modeled the interaction flow from the user and backend perspectives.

Simplified interaction diagram


Low-fidelity prototype

Low-fidelity prototype using a shirt and an inflatable pillow

Low-fidelity prototype using a shirt and an inflatable pillow

Testing the connections and the code for the Huzzah Feather and the Real-Time Clock

Testing the connections and the code for the Huzzah Feather and the Real-Time Clock

Hongnan led the low- to medium-fidelity appearance model of the pillow, while I was developing the code for the interactions.



We created our own pillow design using materials we bought at the fabric store and placed the components inside. We designed the pillow so that it's easy to to insert and remove the electronics through a zipper.

Finally, I created the front-facing app using JQuery Mobile. It communicates with the Huzzah Feather through websocket technology to set the alarm time.

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