Muse has announced a new meditation headband - the Muse 2 - a portable electroencephalograph (EEG) device that tracks brain waves to help guide you into a meditative state.
Muse's first headband, which launched in 2014, converted this EEG signal into sounds reflecting the real-time state of your brain. The idea was that the headband would help you reach a deep relaxed state - but for some people the auditory cues weren't enough to "switch off" from the outside world.
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So this time around, the headband is equipped with other forms of real-time feedback to take some of the guesswork out of meditation. As well as using the same weather-themed sounds, the Muse 2 also tracks body movements, breathing and heart rate. So now, you'll be able to get audio feedback to let you know you're shifting around too much (the headband surrounds you with invisible chimes that you'll hit if you move).
The band's pulse oximeter can now track your heart rhythms too, which will also be reflected in the audio feedback, while the breathing feature uses both movement and heart rhythms to track and guide your breathing technique.
These will be available as individual programs, but Muse says it plans to eventually roll out a feature that will integrate multiple feedback features.
"The critical realization was that some people’s minds are just super chaotic," Muse co-founder Chris Aimone told Wareable. "If you get some neurofeedback device and they need to calm their mind to calm the weather, and you can’t do it immediately, that’s super frustrating."
Earlier this year Muse acquired Meditation Studio, an app that offers guided meditation sessions, and these will also be available to Muse users in the near future.
Muse 2 costs $249 and it's available from today, with all the app features included, but the company is still considering a paid layer for the future, which may include the option to combine feedback features. Muse also hasn't decided if it will bring any of the new features to the first device, which does have motion sensors in it. There's also a "walking meditation" feature in the pipeline - but we're not yet sure how that one will work.
The science behind Muse is pretty robust - the neurofeedback has been used in the mental health field for over a decade - and its tech has been used in neuroscience research. But what about the average user? Aimone says that the company noticed a strange phenomenon of users who stop using Muse for several months, come back for a month, then vanish again. The team discovered that some of these users were using Muse until they felt like they didn't need it anymore - then would return months later when the stresses of life became too much again.
The company's hope is that the new features will mean more users stick with it by having a more tangible sense of progress. Muse doesn't have a concrete number of minutes or days a week it advises people use its headband, but it says that having a consistent routine is more important.
"If you look at someone who’s used it for weeks or months, there have been some considerable neuroplastic changes from the practice And you can see it through increased, reaction time, that kind of stuff," said Aimone. "Things become measurable"
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