Gadget Review: InteraXon's Muse Headband

Yeah. Stress. Anxiety. Neuroses. “Can I have some less, please?”

Paxyl and alcohol make me just want to smoke an endless chain of cigarettes and my knees and ankles are less forgiving of my body than they used to be when I work out. Running off to Aix-en-Provence, doing a bit of painting and cutting off my left ear would be messy and expensive. Run a bit, Yoga a bit, really good tequila a bit and a slow slobbery blowjob now and again… this will have to do!

Oh, but wait a second.  Look! Here comes a company that thinks tech could be the answer for creating a more serene state of being. Muse is the brain fitness tool that helps you do more with your mind and more with your life, in just three minutes a day. And that afternoon, apropos of nothing, I see Muse ads in the Washington Post and New York Times.

Thusly I was persuaded into testing a brain-sensing headband called Muse. The invention of InterAxon, a Toronto-based corporation, this handsome plastic headband has sensors inside which track, measure and classify your brain activity, accompanied by a mobile app called Calm, which encourages concentration via various suggested mental exercises, which in turn encourage you to remain in a state of calm and persistent focus. It also utilizes a game-style app that’s meant to motivate you. Theoretically at least, it’s like having a pedometer installed inside your brain. Based on research pioneered at the Mayo Clinic, Muse measures electrical activity in your brain using electroencephalography technology (EEG).

Muse’s headband looks similar to over-the-ear sport headphones with a band in front, across your forehead. Your brain activity is measured through sensors built into the band and the two earpieces and although they’re quite comfy, they do tend to slip and need constant readjustment. With a battery that charges for up to five hours, Muse then connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth, and the free Calm app is available for iOS, Android and Kindle Fire devices. I paired it with the iPhone 6 Plus, and the process was simple and quick. After you’re connected, a gentle female voice instructs you on using the app.

I’m quite ambivalent about Muse. I have to confess it’s very simple to use, and the little workouts have generally been enjoyable. Afterwards, I really was more relaxed over the remainder of the workday. It’s also pretty neat that the app measures and retains your data, allowing you to see behavioral patterns and bad habits in such a way that you can graph and keep notes for the sake of making logic rule. Definitely enough info for you to see why you had a good or bad day.

By the same token, as it costs a substantial amount at $300, I have yet to notice any substantial advantages created by it.  As two Harvard professors of Psychology, Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert, were quoted as saying in Science magazine. “A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.”

Practice may not necessarily make perfect, but it will help someone like a Muse user over time. Certainly, this could change with more use. Killingsworth and Gilbert found that people were happiest when making love, exercising, or engaging in conversation. They were least happy when resting, working, or using a home computer. Muse is not a medically approved device. At the same time, although I’m not saying it doesn’t work, there’s a big ‘not proven’ stigma to it, too.

InterAxon says it will be adding more features in the coming year, and the platform is open to developers to create apps around Muse, so it’s certainly something to keep an eye on.  For details, visit their website. At any rate, common sense says wait on this one for a while.

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