The headband that lets you know when you lose focus

Muse currently targets meditators but plans to focus on auto insurers as well

A version of this article first appeared in Canadian Business.

It’s headband-turned-meditation-coach that works like an electroencephalogram (EEG), and in two years, it aims to infiltrate the insurance market.

Muse measures the user’s brainwave activity and transmits the data to an app. When your mind is at rest, the app plays audio of calm winds. When your mind begins to wander, the winds intensify to prompt you to refocus. At the end of a session, the Muse app tells you how well you performed and displays a graph of your brain’s activity. It’s a high-tech approach to an ancient practice, one that’s becoming more popular among busy professionals who recognize the benefits of meditation but don’t have time to attend a class.

A recent survey by parent company InteraXon showed that 52 percent of Americans currently meditate or would like to start, and 45 million people are keen on using technology to help. InteraXon may just be to meditation what Lululemon is to yoga. “In the future, we are going to help hundreds of thousands of people live happier, healthier lives with Muse,” says Ariel Garten, co-founder of InteraXon. Not only that, but the company is looking to take its low-cost EEG technology into entirely new fields.

But InteraXon isn’t stopping there. “Meditation is the tip of the iceberg,” says CEO Derek Luke. “We need to create an infrastructure out there so that once we become successful in bringing meditation to the masses, we also have a rich platform underneath the water to tackle other verticals.”

Driver monitoring is the first of those verticals. InteraXon is adapting the Muse headband to detect drowsiness and distraction levels in drivers, and is targeting truck and auto insurance companies as potential customers. Current systems that use cameras to monitor drivers can only pick up changes in physical behaviour, which is potentially too late to avert problems. Luke argues InteraXon’s technology can prevent accidents from happening by identifying changes in cognitive performance early on and alerting drivers when they lose focus. The product is at least two years away from commercialization, according to Luke.

The ambitious plans are keeping Luke busy, but he views his mission at InteraXon in the broadest of terms. “In Canada, we have a really strong base of neuroscience,” he says. “I see this as a catalyst for commercializing something we’re good at.”

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