What’s Your Wait?

Perceived time differs with age. Studies suggest that this difference in perceived time varies by as much as 20% between the ages 5-70.

The What’s Your Wait device calculates the participant’s “Perceived Time Age”. The participant simply holds the button for their perception of 10 seconds and the dial will spin round to reveal their Perceived Time Age.

What’s Your Wait was built in answer to an MSc Product Design brief to explore the notion of time and/or space and represent a demonstration of it physically.


My ideas explored ways to communicate and further understand the difference in perception of time. Does time go slowly when you are bored but too fast when you’re enjoying yourself? Why does a car journey seem longer to a child than it does to their parents?

I began experimenting with converting perceived time to a scale illustrated by a servo. The first prototype made a servo tick like the second hand of a clock, however it was never exactly one second. An algorithm was used to subtly fluctuate between 0.7 and 1.5 seconds so that the observer was unaware of the inaccuracies.

This developed into what proved to be an engaging prototype where the user must attempt to guess as close to 10 seconds as they could, thus displaying the accuracy of their perceived time:

In the video the led lights up for the duration of the switch hold. An accurate 10 seconds results in the servo turning exactly 90 degrees. Slightly more/less than 10 seconds results in the servo rotating slightly more/less than 90 degrees. Jinyang (23) produces an almost perfect 10 seconds (and celebrates accordingly).

According to Lourdes Espinosa-Fernandez Study into age related changes in time estimation at age 25 you’re perceived time is supposed to be it’s most accurate. Another user, Fu, who is 25 perceived 10 seconds perfectly, I (22) guessed short and MSc Course Director; Jon Rogers guessed slightly longer. This is true to the experiment data.

A prototype was adequate for the requirements of the brief so using laser-cut card I designed and constructed a robust prototype.

Prototype development:

Final .DWG for the laser cutter:

An early version of the integrated servo mechanism:

Final Prototype: