What do you do when you need to focus in order to get work deadline out the door, but you can’t stop thinking about what do eat for dinner, scheduling a second date or that spot on the ceiling? Maybe you put on your headphones and tune into the white noise station or take a deep breath and meditate, but do really have any way of knowing if these methods work? Imagine if the inner workings of your mind could not only be scanned, but also analyzed to help you improve your mental abilities and concentration.
Both the quantified self movement and the wearable health tracking industry have grown in popularity in recent years. Dozens of companies have introduced hardware and software solutions to measure the quantity of our movement and the quality of our sleep. However, what we have yet to see is a product that actually measures our brain activity.
Melon is a headband and mobile app that tracks and helps wearer’s improve their focus in relation to any activity, environment or behavior that they want to track. The wireless brain-sensing device uses EEG (electroencephalography) to measure brain activity, which is interpreted by the company’s algorithms to detect focus.
The data is sent to a smartphone running the Melon app, which translates that info into a focus graph – generally speaking, the higher the neural activity in your pre-frontal cortex, the higher your level of focus. Wearers then input contextual data tags like time of day, type of activity and the surrounding environmental conditions to allow them to track variables that may affect their focus. This data is then analyzed to give users personalized feedback on how to improve their mental acuity.
In addition to helping users learn what affects their focus levels, the app also provides tips for improving focus and a game to help you increase your mental powers. The game is simple: you start with a digital rendering of a sheet of paper, and as you focus on that image, it folds itself into an origami shape.
The project, which has successfully been backed through crowdfunding site Kickstarter, aims to go beyond the numbers and scores given by many health tracking apps and move towards actionable insights and understanding. The company is also planning to open the product’s API so members of the developer and hacker communities can come up with creative uses for the data and technology.
While it might take some time to get beyond the awkward aesthetics of the headband (especially if you choose to pair it with Google Glass), it ushers in a new stream of data with which to understand our behaviors and improve them over time. If the technology and insights reach a high enough level of sophistication, they may even one day replace or at least curb or reliance on pharmaceuticals for disorders like ADD and ADHD. Focus on that for a while.
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