Can a bracelet really let you control your dreams?

We cover crowdfunding projects all the time at Digital Trends. Platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have given us outstanding products like the Formlabs 3D printer, Biolite campstove, and Onewheel electric skateboard thing.

But there’s no shortage of failed campaigns and outright scams that stem from these platforms as well. Triton Gills, a device that would supposedly allow users to breathe underwater, raised (and later returned) nearly $900,000 when backers realized it wouldn’t work as advertised. And then there was the bizarre campaign for Kobe beef jerky that raised a jaw-dropping $120,000 despite providing about as much product information as you’d find on the back of a Slim Jim. Luckily, Kickstarter itself stepped in to shut the campaign down.

With that in mind, a campaign for a wearable called the Instadreamer recently caught our attention. Like many tech products that emerge on crowdfunding platforms, Instadreamer is at once imaginative, intriguing, and somewhat suspect. The bracelet’s creators say their device will let you “take control of your dreams” by inducing vivid, lucid dreaming episodes. That’s a bold promise. But is the device less Inception and more deception? Let’s take a closer look.

Making (lucid) dreams a reality

Lucid dreaming is, in short, conscious dreaming. It’s knowing you’re dreaming when you’re dreaming, which may come with the added bonus of becoming the architect of the events and environments around you. The possibilities are endless, say lucid dreaming practitioners, limited only by your alarm clock.

Though lucid dreaming comes naturally to some, it’s known to be triggered and manipulated through habitual “reality checks” meant to help differentiate the real world from the dream world. That’s where the Instadreamer comes in.

“The most effective ways to create lucid dreams are to perform regular reality checks,” Jean Rausis, the Instadreamer’s inventor, tells Digital Trends. “Basically you have to make sure that you are in reality all day long, as much as possible. Hopefully that starts to become a habit, and as soon as it becomes a habit you start doing it in your dreams.”

There are a variety of reality checks to choose from, including checking the time on a clock (which should sporadically change in dreams) to checking your reflection in a mirror (which may appear distorted in the dream world).

“The most effective ways to create lucid dreams are to perform regular reality checks.”

Based on Pavlovian conditioning — the same kind that makes dogs slobber when they hear their food bowl rattle — Instadreamer serves as a sort of reminder designed to habituate these reality checks. The device vibrates at various times throughout the day, encouraging the wearer to perform a check. At night, the bracelet picks up on biometric signals, including a person’s pulse and temperature, to detect when they’re experiencing rapid eye movement (REM), the phase of sleep when dreams are most vivid. If the bracelet has sufficiently integrated itself into the wearer’s reality, its nighttime vibrations will put them into a state of conscious dreaming.

“Everyone knows how annoying and difficult it is to build a new habit,” Rausis says. “The difference with the Instadreamer is that it reminds you to reality check but also binds it with these vibrations, so you basically condition your brain to have an automatic response. Every time your wrist vibrates, you perform a reality check.”

Alarm bells ringing

Lucid dreams have been studied scientifically since the 60s. In the 80s, a psychophysiologist named Stephen LaBerge introduced a technique for induced lucid dreams that tracked eye movement to determine when someone was in REM and used a low tone or a red blinking light to signal to the sleeping participant that they were dreaming. Both the light and sound stimuli had a tendency to wake subjects up, according to Deirdre Barrett, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School who specializes in dream research, but also triggered lucidity at rates higher than chance.

For Barrett, the Instadreamer offers a compelling path towards lucid dreaming, but she’s not without her suspicions.

can a bracelet really let you control your dreams instadreamer press 7

For one thing, Rausis and his team haven’t published study results indicating that the Instadreamer actually works: “I would assume if they already had data on the wrist REM detector working well and the vibration device getting a dreamer’s attention without awakening them, they’d say that.”

And while the bracelet breaks from previous stimuli like sound and red light, which had issues with awakening, it “also could prove to be worse yet than the sound stimulus worked in similar devices.

“It seems like an idea worth testing that might potentially increase lucid dreams,” she adds. “But the content of the pitch…is talking as if they’re sure it works and works better than other approaches, and I don’t see any evidence of that.”

Leap of faith

Rausis says he and his team ran trials on 19 people, 14 of whom reported lucid dreams within the first three nights of using Instadreamer. He acknowledges that these participants were prepped for the experience, and thus may have been more prone to lucid dreaming, but says the tips and tricks they were given to maximize their chances of lucidity will also be available to Instadreamer customers.

And while he can’t produce any data showing that the bracelet accurately detects REM sleep, Rausis is unfazed by the burden of proof.

“The pitch talks as if they’re sure it works and I don’t see any evidence of that.”

“What’s important for us is that it’s successfully inducing lucid dreams,” he says. “If it’s more or less accurate [at recognizing REM] than a given smartwatch…I don’t really care.”

Despite the lack of published evidence, Instadreamer has had a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising nearly $112,500 from more than 550 backers. Individual Instadreamers were available for around $200 and will retail for about $249. After the campaign, Rausis and his team will now take the device to Indeigogo Indemand with the goal to deliver a finished product early in 2019.

Backers take a leap of faith every time they pledge to a crowdfunding campaign. Sure, there are ways to limit your exposure — for example, by following our five-step checklist to avoid getting burned — but there’s also something to be said about putting your money behind a compelling idea, whether there’s a wealth of evidence to support the product of not.

What you do with your money is, of course, up to you, your family, and maybe the IRS — but we’d personally wait before shelling out a couple hundred dollars on the Instadreamer. If the product works as promised, a bunch of raving reviews should support its claims after its launch.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Self-balancing skates, tiny tripods, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Mobile

Updating to Apple’s iOS 12 will make your iPhone a whole lot smarter

iOS 12, the latest version of Apple’s iOS, is officially here. We took it for a spin to check out its new noteworthy features, and if it truly changes our smartphone habits for the better.
Outdoors

BioLite’s HeadLamp gives off tons of light, weighs in at just 3 ounces

BioLite's innovative new Headlamp is perfect for hikers, runners, and campers. It delivers 330 lumens of light, while weighing less than 3 ounces, and comes with a headband that is breathable and comfortable to wear.
Gaming

Chug some booze and belt out battle songs in 'The Bard's Tale 4'

From the same developers behind Torment: Tides of Numenera and Wasteland 2, comes a long-awaited sequel to a classic RPG/dungeon crawler series. Fans can get The Bard's Tale 4: Barrows Deep starting today for PC on Steam.
Emerging Tech

Giant wind farm in Morocco will help mine cryptocurrency, conserve energy

One of the windiest parts of Morocco is set to get a $2 billion wind farm power plant, which could help power eco-friendly cryptocurrency mining in a more environmentally friendly way.
Emerging Tech

Robots are going to steal 75 million jobs by 2025 — but there’s no need to panic

According to the World Economic Forum, robots and A.I. will take 75 million jobs from hardworking humans by 2025. That's the bad news. The good news is that they will create far more jobs than that.
Emerging Tech

An A.I. is designing retro video games — and they’re surprisingly good

Researchers from Georgia Tech have demonstrated how artificial intelligence can be used to create brand-new video games after being shown hours of classic 8-bit gaming action for inspiration.
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Smart Home

Amazon might open 3,000 cashier-free Amazon Go stores by 2021

According to new reporting by Bloomburg, anonymous sources within Amazon say that CEO Jeff Bezos is considering opening up to 3,000 of the company's cashier-less, experimental Amazon Go stores by 2021.
Emerging Tech

Wormlike motion sculptures show how athletes move in 3D

Researchers at MIT have developed a system that offers athletes a unique way to visualize their bodies in motion. An algorithm scans 2D videos of a person in motion, and generates data points that can be 3D-printed into "motion sculptures."
Emerging Tech

Harvard’s soft robotic exosuit adapts itself to the needs of every wearer

Harvard engineers have developed a new multi-joint, textile-based soft robotic exosuit, designed to help soldiers, firefighters, and other rescue workers. Here's what makes it so exciting.
Emerging Tech

These flying cars want to take your commute to new heights

The future is closer than you'd think: Companies around the world are working on flying car models, with many successful tests! Here are all the flying cars and taxis currently in development, and how they work!
Computing

Tap Strap wearable keyboard gains support for VR applications

TAP System's wearable keyboard gains support for virtual reality, now compatible with Windows Mixed Reality, Oculus Rift, and HTV headsets. Type and tap for up to eight hours in VR without needing to look at a physical keyboard.
Emerging Tech

Robot jellyfish could be used to patrol fragile coral reefs

Could schools of robotic jellyfish soon be patrolling the world’s oceans, monitoring fragile environments such as coral reefs? A team of United States researchers certainly thinks so.