Lucid dreaming, or being aware that you are dreaming and perhaps having the ability to control it, is hot right now. The escapism, the limitless possibilities and chance to briefly manipulate your perceivable reality has driven more people to try their hand at lucid dreaming in recent years. Inducing that sort of experience has been the target of some research, and one team is trying to take it out of the lab and into the bedroom (like, for sleeping). The Amsterdam-based iBand+ is debuting on Kickstarter today and promises to bring you deeper into your self-conscious — sort of — with a combo of small speakers, LED lights and an EEG-based head strap.
Lucid dreaming has caught the attention of researchers for years as a possible conduit for problem solving, therapy, learning new languages and even threat simulation (assuming you can figure out how not to throw a slow punch in the dream world). The logic is pretty simple, at least more straight-forward than in Christopher Nolan’s Inception (if you want to listen to the movie theme for the rest of the article, go for it).
“EEG is not a new technology — it’s been around for about a century — but with recent advances in nanotechnology you can really compress this technology into a wearable,” says Samir Raut, who co-founded iBand+ with his wife Purva. “Purva had a problem, trouble falling asleep. She’s very sensitive to changes in sleep environments. We started looking two years ago and tried many sleep techniques. We found soothing music helped a lot. She tried using this but it has its own limitations.”
iBand+ uses EEG technology (electroencephalography, literally the study of electrical signals in the brain) to monitor wearers’ brainwaves, body movement, pulse and temperature to determine when someone has entered Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, the stage of deep sleep when people dream. At that point, the dream machine uses audio and visual cues to get the sleeper’s attention. It could be music like the cue used in Inception, or a certain combo of colors from iBand+’s LED light array, but either way the point is to alert the dreamer. At that point, the dreamer can get a grip and realize she’s dreaming.
In Purva’s case, there was no way to adapt the volume of the music to her sleep cycle. Investigating how to do that and to pinpoint REM sleep led the husband-and-wife team to pivot their research toward the dream world. REM, or Rapid Eye Movement, is the period of deep sleep when most dreams occur. Their interest in lucid dreaming blossomed, and the couple moved toward miniaturizing sleep pattern monitoring and sync that up with visual cues. In 2015, they formally founded iBand+.
They retain psychiatrist Dr. Shailesh Chowgule in Mumbai as their primary advisor, who Samir says has been instrumental during iBand+’s research and development phases. Neither Purva nor Samir come from a psychology, much less sleep health, background.
During a classic EEG session, there might be as many as 30 electrodes over your scalp. iBand+ has only three electrodes on its device laid out over the forehead.
There have been several attempts to corner the market on lucid sleep induction, but nothing has come along with the sophistication of iBand+. The main reason for that is the EEG. Three years ago, a project called Remee raised 1,500% of its goal on Kickstarter for a lucid-inducing eye mask fitted with LED lights. That mask, which has since reached store shelves, can’t detect when you are in REM sleep (kind of undermining the point of the product’s name). While products like that require knowing your own sleep cycle cold, iBand+’s creators boast having a machine that learns from your habits very quickly and piggybacks off the paralysis that deep REM sleep produces.
Raut laid it out for Geektime like this, “Your body becomes completely paralyzed except your eyes moving rapidly. Your heart rate and body temperature increase. What happens when you go in dream phase? You want a trigger or external stimulus, and the best is audiovisual.”
That’s where 16 million possible color combinations come in with their LED array to use during sleep or to wake up. Raut explains that the other senses are dulled outside of sound and sight, making audiovisual cues really the only way to go for their device.
On the book ends of the night, the machine can be set to play soothing music to get you to sleep or simulate natural sunlight and play other noises to wake you up at the ideal part of your sleep cycle. There are also fringe benefits to all those sensors. iBand+ can also monitor your sleep patterns to detect health problems. The companion app recommends different audiovisual techniques and styles to users as it gathers info on previous nights’ sleep. Altogether, the app can provide a useful long-term sleep-tracking record with graphs and scores.
They haven’t pursued external investments before heading to Kickstarter, mainly Samir says because they want to keep the original version of their idea “unadulterated.”
“We want to grow this idea first. We’re on Kickstarter because the people who would most benefit from it are the community and want to get their suggestions rather than an angel investor who might divert us from our goal. First we want feedback from the community.”
If the product is successful, Raut sees a path by which it can be integrated into sustained therapy programs and used in research. Other potential applications include full house integration so that your lights go out and doors get locked when iBand+ detects your sleeping brain waves, fitness tracking and the not-so-subtle “thought-controlled computing” suggested on their Kickstarter site. Raut says the future looks bright for their device, and not just because of the 16 million color combinations in their LED array. He touts a road map for product development, including some ideas he hopes will be more tangible in the very near future.
“You can imagine a set up where you go to bed and depending on your sleep phase, the lights turns off because it knows you’ve gone to sleep, your doors get locked, your thermostat gets adjusted. It’s an IoT so smart you don’t have to react,” Raut tells Geektime, but, “iBAND+ at this moment is a consumer electronic product. This has the potential to become an FDA-approved device but at this moment we want to keep it purely a CE product used by anyone and everyone.”
They have a manufacturing partner in Shenzhen, the hardware hub in China just over the border from Hong Kong. Their early bird price is €129 with a goal of raising €50,000 over the course of their campaign.
iBand+ was co-founded by Samir and Purva Raut. Their team of five also includes Model Developer Roeland Rietsema, Senior Industrial Designer Bas Bruining and Product Industrial Concept Manager Eric van Dorst.
Want to get your hands on this? Check out iBand+ on Kickstarter.