Gadgets

Tune your meditation with a metal flower that tracks your brainwaves — and those of your friends

Lotus
Image Credit: Mindfulness, Inc.

Can a handmade metal lotus flower, audio snippets of a teacher’s voice, and a brainwave headset reader help your meditation?

One startup, Mindfulness, thinks so.

The San Francisco-based company has launched a Kickstarter campaign that seeks $64,000 by July 23 to manufacture its first product, The Lotus. It features a colorful metal lotus flower — handmade in India — that fully opens when your brainwaves reach the set threshold. As you get there, an accompanying app on your smartphone offers audio feedback from a meditation instructor.

“Come back to your breath,” the instructor’s voice might say if your alpha brainwaves start to lag. Once the flower completely opens, it then slowly closes over a pre-set time, with the default being a day.

The brainwave headset — made by either InterAxon Muse or the NeuroSky MindWave Mobile —sends EEG output to the smartphone app. The smartphone communicates via Bluetooth with the metal lotus flower.

“The number one thing, especially when starting [to meditate], is there’s no feedback,” Rohan Dixit told VentureBeat. A neuroscientist who has measured the brainwaves of monks, he is one of three founders of the budding company.

“There’s [usually] no confirmation that what you’re doing is correct” when you meditate, he noted. Dixit points in particular to the audio feedback from the meditation teacher in the Lotus setup as being a key feedback aid.

To create a supporting social network, you can assign a color on a petal to a friend, whose Lotus system can communicate remotely with yours via the app. When she has reached her set brainwave threshold at her location, her assigned color will begin cycling on the flower.

The social connection to the friend, he said, is “like having a gym buddy” to keep you from slacking off.

Habit-inducing trigger

The flower itself, he said, is a habit-inducing trigger.

“For example,” Dixit said, “if you want to start flossing, keep a box of floss on the counter, and start by flossing one tooth.” The presence of the floss box encourages you to clear out the spaces between your teeth, and the idea is that the presence of the metal flower will encourage you to clear out the spaces in your head.

“I still have trouble making [meditation] a regular part of my day,” he said. “Having the flower there physically, and especially [the social connection] says, ‘you should meditate more.'”

The other creators of Lotus are artist and TED speaker Shilo Shiv Sulemana and Steve Castellotti, whose previous credits include the Puzzlebox Orbit brain-controlled helicopter and the Discovery Channel’s Time Warp series.

A prototype of the Lotus has been created, and an app is already done. In the first run, the flower will be entirely handmade, but in later runs only the petals will be. No price for the released, post-Kickstarter product – Lotus and app – has yet been set. The brainwave headset reader is not included, but it may be bundled at some point.

The Lotus will be “open sourced,” so that people can make their own petals or hardware components from 3D models available online.

“If you wanted to print your own flower,” Dixit said, “you wouldn’t need us at all.”

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