Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a wearable electronic glove that, they say, can boost the wearer's creativity as they sleep — and even guide their dreams.
"We explore[d] ways to augment human creativity by extending, influencing, and capturing dreams in Stage 1 sleep," the team explains of the work behind the Dormio glove. "It is currently challenging to force ourselves to be creative because so much creative idea association occurs in the absence of executive control and directed attention. Sleep offers an opportunity for prompting creative thought in the absence of directed attention, especially if dreams can be guided."
The Dormio glove is designed to tap into the wearer's hypnogogic state, a semi-lucid part of sleep in which the user is believed to be at the most suggestible. The earliest version of the glove itself was built around an Arduino Uno board linked to a force-sensitive resistor on the user's palm, with later variants collecting additional data including muscle tone, heart rate, and skin conductance — all of which are used to determine when the wearer is drifting through the stages of sleep.
"When the biosignals signal the onset of sleep," the researchers explain, "a timer of a few minutes starts. At the end of the timer, an audio recording is played to ask the user for a dream report, bringing the wearer back into wakefulness, but ideally not into full wakefulness."
"We record everything the user says during their dream report," the team continues, "which could be useful for users to play back later to avoid forgetting a potentially useful idea. Following their dream report, the system then plays an audio cue, reminding the wearer to think of certain words (like 'fork' or 'rabbit'), in the hopes of integrating the cued topic into their next set of dreams. The user then drifts back to sleep, with the cue in mind."
It may sound like something from the film Inception or myths about hypnotists' abilities, but experimental studies suggest the Dormio device does indeed work: users reported an increase, across the board, of dreams relating to the cued topics suggested in the device's recordings.
Inception was also forefront of the team's mind when it came to ethical and safety concerns: "In hypnagogia," the researchers explain, "people are able to monitor their environment and be aware of their descent into sleep, limiting the capacity for inserting any ideas people don't want inserted, or extracting ideas they don't want extracted."
Full details on Dormio, including links to presentations and publications, are available on the project website. The hardware and software behind the project has been published to GitHub, too, for anyone to build their own — though the team describes existing tutorials on the process as "deprecated," with updated documentation to follow.