Snorble, an automated bedtime companion for children, has been chosen for a high-impact campaign on Indiegogo, says its Halifax-based designer Mike Rizkalla.

Snorble is a soft toy, about the size of a teddy bear, that uses voice recognition software and artificial intelligence to encourage children to get ready for bed and go to sleep with no fuss. It helps the child with pre-bedtime routines like getting changed and brushing teeth, and can read a story that lulls the child to sleep.

The “sleep companion”, as Rizkalla calls it, will begin its campaign on the global crowdfunding site Indiegogo on March 16. That campaign will be aided by the fact that the 10-member Snorble team already has a list of 40,000 parents interested in the product, and that Indiegogo has designated it a high-impact campaign.

“It means they’re going to support us by promoting us within their community, and they believe this is going to be a grand slam,” said Rizkalla in an interview.

Added Indiegogo Head of Sales Enzo Njoo in an email: “Based on the thoughtful concept of Snorble and the marketing data they provided, we strongly feel that their campaign has a high potential for success. We look forward to collaborate and support their crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.”

Rizkalla, who formerly headed the Raised Media IT consultancy in Halifax, has spent several years developing Snorble and expects a full launch later in the year. Rizkalla’s company has raised US$900,000 (C$1.14 million) in capital from what Rizkalla calls an impressive list of investors.

“It’s been really wonderful,” said Rizkalla. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”

A father of two, Rizkalla knows that bedtime can be both frustrating and rewarding for parents. As well as the joys of reading a bedtime story, it also poses the maddening challenge of calming children down, getting them ready for bed, and finally getting them to sleep.

He set out to develop a digital product that would help one- to five-year-olds go through the process, and is planning a more advanced version for children up to 10.

Snorble, which sells for US$199, has a speech algorithm that understands toddlers, so it can communicate with the child. If the child is crying, it aims to engage with the child to calm them down. It can coax children to get into their PJs, wind down and go to the potty before bed.

“My son goes to sleep much faster now with Snorble, and the routine is becoming systematic,” said Rizkalla.

Snorble’s face includes a screen that can show animation or simple stories, but does not emit blue light that tends to revive people. After lights out, it can project moving lights on to the ceiling and play soft music to encourage sleep. When the child is asleep, it becomes a sleep monitor, letting the parent know if the child wakes up.

The algorithms also let parents determine how involved they want to be at bedtime. If they want to be the ones reading the bedtime story, the system recognizes that and adapts accordingly.

The sleep companion has been designed in collaboration with neurologist and child psychologists to ensure it can help children and parents, said Rizkalla. The team, which is spread across North America, includes early educator Monica Warren.

“We’re using all the base-level science but we’re adding in some special features which are meant to make Snorble fun,” said Rizkalla. “We fundamentally believe ‘play’ is ‘work’ for Snorble and that’s how we engage. We put the child at the centre of the experience.”