Tuesday, 14 October 2014

New Dream Technology

Recent reports of new technology, designed specifically to enable us to maximise our dreaming experience, suggest a new wave of gadgets will soon be available to the mass market. Cutting- edge scientific developments have increasingly been utilised by the health and fitness industries in modern times, but innovations in sleep/dream technology are especially exciting as this is an area of human experience which is rarely focused on by manufacturers. Apple have announced the launch of the iWatch, a device which measures heart rate and allegedly tracks sleep patterns, having been designed with the assistance of sleep researcher and former Philips scientist, Roy J E M Raymann. Rumours as to the precise functions of the iWatch are as yet unconfirmed, although some reports have suggested that the Healthbook app (thought to be released with iOS 8) will have a similar ability to monitor sleep patterns. Initial information about Apple's innovations into sleep technology will no doubt please their legion of advocates, as well as potentially tempting new fans who may have already experimented with sleep/dream technology available on the market, such as Fitbit Force or Nike FuelBand SE, although these latter products have been criticised for either producing inaccurate results in the case of the former, or only having  manual functionality in the case of the latter.

There has been growing interest in sleep monitoring, as evidenced by reviews of the Jawbone Up, a device which supposedly uses proprietary algorithms which enable it to communicate how well the user slept, based on movements differentiating between deep and REM sleep patterns and the stage of sleep during which the user awoke. Data collected by the Jawbone Up is synched with your smartphone via an ingenious app, and is presented in both daily charts and more complex graphs.By monitoring the quality and patterns of sleep, the user will be able to better understand and embrace their sleeping routine and discover when dreaming tends to occur, enabling more successful dream experimentation or exploration. 

It is unsurprisingly that devices and products aimed at improving the quality of our sleep are making their technological debut, and certainly the public interest in dreams has piqued with many more of us taking a more active interest in our dreaming. During the past few years, growing numbers of consumers have utilised digital innovations - particularly in smartphone form - to access and make sense of what happens to us during sleep. Thanks to the considerable advancements in technology we are now able to closely monitor the universal phenomenon of dreaming within our own homes at the mere touch of a button. The beauty of such products is the simplicity and ease at which they can be used - making sure the device is switched on is all that is required of the user - other than enjoying a sleep! New mobile tools for dream tracking, analysis and self-reflection are gaining evermore traction in mainstream society, allowing users to determine exactly how dreams influence our waking life.

Lucid dreaming is often a difficult, somewhat abstract concept for many to grasp, but this is changing, especially with new technologies which make lucid dreaming a reality for many more persons who might otherwise be uninterested in learning the time-consuming mental and psychical techniques traditionally used to harness this dreaming phenomenon. One particular example of new technology which enhances the lucid dreaming experience is the iWinks Aurora headband which supposedly allows users to access and control lucid dreaming in an unprecedented way, by prompting lucidity during sleep. The device is marketed as the 'dream-enhancing headband' and advertises digital features such as lights and sounds which are triggered during REM sleep to invoke lucidity in the user, as well as a smart alarm which enables better, healthier sleep. The Aurora headband measures brainwave and eye movement activity in the user, while tracking bodily movements to figure out when the user is in a dream state. Bluetooth technology is then used to transfer personal dream data to an accompanying mobile app, allowing the user to analyse sleep patterns over time. More excitingly, the online advertising blurb states that the user can set the Aurora headband to either produce 'daring dream-signs' for an immediate lucidity trigger, or softer alerts for a more subtle modulation of the dreamscape. The Aurora headband, although subject to extensive research, has not yet been made available to the mass market.

It is very possible that greater technological input into healthy sleep patterns will broaden the scope of research and develop into more niche areas, for example, making it possible for us to accurately monitor and interact with our dreams, discover and share their meanings and take greater advantage of them in our waking lives. The conversation of dreams will only continue and technological innovation will offer additional opportunities for us to explore dream trends and patterns on both a global and individual scale.

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