‘ve always found meditation impossible. A sustained soft focus on absolutely nothing – the sort of zen that I imagine has accompanied Steve Zahn throughout his career – is something I’ve never been able to achieve. I’m not alone – it’s a problem for many, and that’s a shame because the benefits of meditation are fairly well documented.
Meditation is a proven and repeatedly confirmed stress reducer and continues to be increasingly recognized as an important part of long-term health. There’s also evidence that meditation improves cognition and mental focus, increases optimism, strengthens mood control, and even assists in pain management.
When it comes down to it, meditation is probably something worth trying (and ideally getting good at), even if you suck at it and feel stupid every time you give it a whirl. And now there’s a device – attached, of course, to an app – that promises to help you adopt and practice more successful meditation through the miracle of modern technology.
This Muse Inspires Mindfulness, One MP3 At a Time
It’s elegant. It’s ingenious. It’s a little bit terrifying. And it can all be yours for only $300.
Muse, the first consumer-facing product from InteraXon, consists of a headband and a smartphone app that are connected via Bluetooth. The headband contains seven sensors that continually measure your brain’s electrical activity, streaming the info to your mobile device.
The application on the mobile device, while collecting the activity data, is playing one of several “soundscapes” as a soothing white noise to help you meditate. And here’s where it gets really cool / a little freaky: when Muse senses that your brain activity is too high, signaling a departure from your desired meditative state, the soundscape makes a subtle shift and becomes a little more unsettled and a little less soothing. This provides an external reminder to remain mindful and gives you some extra sound on which to focus while you regain a calm and centered feeling.
As your brain quiets down, so does the soundscape, and you, your smartphone, and your Muse are returned to a state of blissful oneness.
This product alone is worth of consideration for considerable accolades, and according to the company Muse is already being used in over 100 research and clinical settings to examine and apply its assisted-meditative capabilities, but this is just the beginning for InteraXon. Founded in 2007 and with more than $17 million in equity funding – including $10 million in a Series B round last year – InteraXon is setting out to be the world leader in thought-controlled computing.
The headband is a clinical-grade EEG, and its Bluetooth pairing capabilities means that there are few constraints to where and with what you could integrate its data. The company is already exploring applications for gaming, assisting individuals with ADHD and other neurological issues, and a whole lot more that they’re not talking about…
…but we can guess.
Medicine, clearly, is a big area of InteraXon, with telemedicine as an especially enticing arena. A brain specialist can sit at home and get accurate readings from patients all over the world, with ’round-the-clock data providing better baselines and greater accuracy/meaningfulness to the interpretation. Even having cheaper, smaller, and easier ways to conduct EEGs in a hospital or clinical setting is a worthwhile (and profit-worthy) advancement.
Then there’s the convenience market. Mind-controlled channel surfing (or Netflix browsing, more likely), heaters that kick on when you think “it’s a bit chilly in here,” car doors that open on approach – combine thought-controlled computing with smarthomes and smartcars, and soon we’ll hardly have to do anything with our hands at all. Maybe we can finally ditch these damn opposable thumbs…
For now though, if their brain-sensing technology just brings a little more mindfulness and serenity, I’ll take it.
Daniel A. Guttenberg is an Atlanta-based writer who fell into the startup world by accident and has been gleefully treading water ever since. He will be survived by his beard and his legacy of procrastination.
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