Brainables: second generation wearables
Mindsettr in the making, prototying using the ULTRACORTEX from the OpenBCI project
Welcome to the future!
We have a small secret for you: CINC is currently developing a brainable, the Mindsettr. But what is a brainable?
We are all getting used to wearables: small smart devices to carry on your body to monitor and support daily life. Apple Watch being the most hyped, and Google Glasses probably the biggest flop, more and more devices enter the market offering to boost our physicality or productivity. Some examples: fitbit and Withings (activity tracking), Emotiv Insight (portable brainscanner), Muse (meditation support headset), Recon (activity-display glasses), DURR (a shivering bracelet), Bellabeat (health tracker jewelery). In addition come semi-wearables like GoPro (action camera) and Hexo+ (personal proximity-drone). When adding virtual reality (VR) products like Oculus Rift, the total market for wearable electronics business is expected to grow from 20 billion USD in 2015 to a staggering 70 billion USD in 2025 (via IDTechEx).
All these first generation wearables all have a limitation: they can monitor but they cannot interfere with your body – they are passive. The next frontier is a second generation of wearables that not only measure but also actively manipulate our body. Some semi-active wearables like powered exoskeletons (gives extra strength) have been around for years, and more products, like Batband (earless headphones) and Upright (corrects your pose), are coming.
But the category of second generation wearables that is of special interest to us at CINC is what we have termed ‘brainables’: devices targeting our brain, seeking to actively influence the way we think. While the technology for doing so has been used in medical treatments and military operations for years, there is currently a rise in various everyday application for healthy subjects in a B2C market. In short, what these devices can do is to apply either low-intensity electricity, or high intensity magnetism, to the brain, and thereby activate (or if desired, deactivate) certain areas of the brain. It sounds utterly futuristic, but it is fairly straightforward: by using external stimulation we can massage, or modulate, the normal activity in the brain. The probably most famous product currently on the market is Thync, a brainable that can force the brain into either relaxation- or concentration-mode. A less serious competitor, foc.us, offers the users a wide range of benefits, from lucid dreaming to enhanced physical performance during sports. One final example is the Fisher Wallace Stimulator, which claims to treat depression and anxiety.
The scientific research on the effects of the current products available is limited, biased and not peer-reviewed, but there is a growing field of rigorous academic work looking at the potential of various brain stimulation technologies. The current conclusion, simply explained, is that while there is no doubt that we can safely and without harm manipulate brain function using external devices, it is challenging to consistently reproduce a given effect. But if we can learn to control the concrete effects of the stimulation the potential is endless. In a very active forum on reddit.com about 7000 DIY’ers are currently experimenting with home-made applications of one of the most common technologies, and elsewhere the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) is organizing a conference on the same topic.
We are currently performing tests of our own prototype, and without saying too much we can disclose that it is pretty mindblowing!