The Glo Pillow by Ian Walton and Eoin McNally is certainly different. The alarm is right there IN your pillow, and you wake by light instead of sound! Not just any light, either. It's a gradual brightening from inside the pillow, designed to mimic the natural way we would wake up to sunlight, if we weren't bound by artificial schedules.
The pillow uses an LED fabric substrate below the surface to wake the user using light. This substrate also functions as a display, showing the time on the pillows surface using the grid of LEDs below. 40 minutes before the pre-set alarm time the pillow begins to glow and gently brings the user out of sleep. This natural waking process helps to set the circadian rhythm or "body clock" and results in more healthy sleep/wake patterns.
There are advantages to waking up this way. Gradual wakening prevents a shock to the system and lets your sleep pattern come to a natural close, since the building light resembles the effect of sunrise. But I first thought of a more practical advantage: not waking up everyone else in the house! My kids can sleep through a siren in their rooms, but an alarm clock will wake me up several rooms away. A pillow that lights up won't even disturb someone in the same bed. Maybe. You can also press a button and use it as a night light. And a clock.
The disadvantages would differ from person to person. The Glo Pillow might be impractical for someone who ends the night hugging their pillow or holding it between their legs. It could be dangerous to wield in a pillow fight. How washable is it? And is it comfortable? You'd have to hold one to really find out, and the Glo Pillow doesn't seem to be available to consumers yet. But the biggest question is, would it actually wake up someone who already has a hard time with a conventional alarm clock?
TIME magazine name the glo Pillow one of the best inventions of 2007.