Gadget Invented to Interpret Your Dreams
When Adam Haar Horowitz took to the stage at a conference dressed as a lotus flower, he raised eyebrows. Then, when he started hitting computers and making gong noises, jaws dropped. He was acting out a dream he had recently had to illustrate how our night-time fantasies can influence our waking lives, and how technology can help us access them.
“The idea that you can take something concrete – a technology – that can help you access that poetic and metaphorical side of your own cognition is really exciting.”
To achieve that access, Horowitz has invented a hand device called Dormio. It is connected to a smartphone app or robot, which speaks word prompts to the subject as they slip into deeper sleep. These words can be used to influence their dreams or to knock them back into lighter sleep.
“After this slight wake-up, we initiate a conversation about dream content with users via the Jibo social robot and record anything that is said, as hypnagogic amnesia is reported and we don’t want people forgetting their useful ideas,” said Horowitz. “I see a future in which sleep is more useful and more accessible to us, where we understand it better and where we have more possibilities for influencing it and extracting the cognition that goes on inside it.”
The goal is to study a particular stage of sleep – the period between wakefulness and deep sleep, known as “hypnagogia”. It is a period of slumber which has fascinated scientists and artists for hundreds of years.
Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Edgar Allan Poe, and Salvador Dali all attempted to access this state by napping with a steel ball or similar object in their hands. When they fell into deeper REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, they would drop the object, waking themselves before they forgot the hypnagogic imaginings.