Isy Goldwasser risked everything to launch Thync, the mood altering brain wearable that was the talk of CES 2015. When he quit his job at chemical engineering company Symyx in 2010, Goldwasser knew he wanted to create a device that could tap into the inner workings of our brains and emotions; the problem was, he didn't know how.
"It began with a huge risk. We knew there was a way to activate brain cells and pathways, but it was just a case of how. We wanted to give people access to their neural circuits," Goldwasser told Wareable.
The company's CEO is at his office in Silicon Valley. It's 9am and he's already plugged himself into Thync, his neurosignalling wearable for a shot of 'energy' Vibe. On the other side of the Atlantic, the Wareable office is about to go home, where β at some point in 2015 when Thync is released β we will be able sit down to enjoy a similar dose of 'calm' after a long day.
Like a futuristic espresso or a wearable technology whisky on-the-rocks, Thync is designed for those sluggish mornings or winding down after a long day. And Goldwasser's team are using it daily, and see others doing the same.
"I had the belief that we could find those pathways and tap into the delivered benefits. That meant I had to go looking for technology, and a lot of it didn't work," he explained.
"That's not being a smartarse. You go on a journey and try different directions. That's how you get ahead of the whole world."
On that journey Goldwasser met Dr. Jamie Tyler, a professor of Biological and Health Systems Engineering at Arizona State University. His 'U+ technology' made the product a reality, and Thync was born.
Choose your vibe
Thync is a small unit that works by placing small electrodes at the base of the neck. When you wear the device, a low current stimulates the nerves and cells in the brain, controlled by a smartphone app. You use the app to choose a "Vibe" to tune your brain too.
"We as humans aren't wired to call up our biology. But imagine if you could control your decisions when you want to, control your focus when you want to, or your creativity or self control, life would be a lot easier.
"We knew that Dr. Tyler had worked on ways from the outside in to activate nerves and brain cells. And we know that the pathways and networks make us everything we are," Goldwasser explained.
"So at the most basic level it began with the belief that if we have great people, we will find the pathways and network that we will tap into that will lead to benefits, to improve people's lives," he said.
What's more, Goldwasser said that the rise of Apple Health and Google Fit are paving the way for this kind of product.
"The proliferation of apps in healthcare mean that people are excited to do something different. Especially when it's an alternative to having a drink or taking a tablet, when those things are clearly unhealthy."
Whether Thync's indeed healthier isn't the decision of Goldwasser, it's that of the FDA, and the US medical regulatory body has done the company a favour by changing its guidelines over wearable devices.
"We're working with the FDA. It's great because they changed the guidelines last month, which separate what a wellness device is from a medical device. We certainly fit the wellness device category. We're non invasive. So we're in the right place with the FDA."
With FDA regulation off the cards, it means that Thync is on for a 2015 launch, though understandably, Goldwasser couldn't be drawn on the specifics.
The problem for Goldwasser was that the promise of a device that can put you in charge of your deepest emotions sounds too good to be true, and if it wasn't for his reputation, it may never have got off the ground.
"If it wasn't for my success at Symyx, no-one would have touched Thync. It was way too academic, it was a science experiment.
"I was really attracted to the frontier where biology and technology happen. Technology and biology will merge and react over time. If there's one frontier that will dominate this century, it's this one."
Biology and technology may be the future tech of the century, but here in 2015, there's plenty of it around. From advances in biotechnology, exoskeletons, cancer detecting bands to digital spinal chords, silicon and flash are melding. But unlike the emotion sensors, brainwave detecting gadgets and lucid dreaming wonder wearables, Goldwasser says that Thync is the real deal.
"What we have is unique, and while other companies are exploring the same area, one thing makes us different: we're not sensing. Sensing doesn't work. We activate what's already there."
It makes perfect sense, yet once the barriers of biology and tech have been broken down, could we go beyond energy and relaxation? Is it possible to go beyond emotions, and start helping people become better at sport or academically superior?
Goldwasser says that "the focus of Thync isn't on changing people, it's about giving them access to what they already have." However, that doesn't mean it's not possible to use the same techniques to unlock 'superhuman' powers.
"Theoretically, we could start making someone better. We're not going there, but people will."