People spend one-third of their lives asleep. What if employees could work during that time … in their dreams?
Prophetic, a venture-backed startup founded earlier this year, wants to help workers do just that. Using a headpiece the company calls the “Halo,” Prophetic says consumers can induce a lucid dream state, which occurs when the person having a dream is aware they are sleeping. The goal is to give people control over their dreams, so they can use that time productively. A CEO could practice for an upcoming board meeting, an athlete could run through plays, a web designer could create new templates—“the limiting factor is your imagination,” founder and CEO Eric Wollberg told EuroJournal.
Consumer devices claiming to induce lucid dream states aren’t new. Headbands, eye masks, and boxes with electrodes that stick to the forehead all populate the market. Even some supplements claim to do the trick. But there’s still an appetite for new technologies, since the potential for creativity and problem-solving is so great and since many on the market don’t work to the extent they promise, a dreaming expert told EuroJournal.
The potential of lucid dreaming is less about conquering specific problems and more about finding new, creative ways to approach topics that a sleeper couldn’t previously fathom. For example, a mathematician might not reach a specific, numerical answer to a math problem while asleep, but the lucid dream allows them to explore new strategies to tackle the equation while awake.
Early mockups of the Halo show a headband-shaped device that is worn like a crown. It will work by releasing focused ultrasound beams—or sound waves also used to monitor the health of a baby in the womb—into a region of the brain involved in lucid dreaming. The beams will activate the parts of the brain that control decision-making and awareness, initiating the lucid dream, the company says. To create the Halo, Prophetic is working with Card79 founder Afshin Mehin, who designed the Neuralink N1 device for Elon Musk’s brain implant company.
Wollberg founded Prophetic in March alongside chief technology officer Wesley Louis Berry III, who was previously creating augmented reality art. The two met through a mutual friend. Wollberg formerly worked at Gnowbe, the 500 Global–backed edtech startup, and Praxis, the Bedrock- and Paradigm-funded startup looking to build a futuristic city in the Mediterranean. Prophetic has raised $1.1 million in Series A funding from Escape Velocity, O’Shaughnessy Ventures, and BoxGroup.
‘Control is what we want’
The technology isn’t without its skeptics. “It’s just not that simple,” according to Antonio Zadra, a psychology professor at the University of Montreal who specializes in sleep and dreaming (and is a frequent lucid dreamer himself).
With other lucid-dream-inducing technologies, sleepers have been able to enter the lucid dream state, but they can quickly forget they are dreaming or get overexcited and wake up, he said. Being able to control a dream, which goes a step further than someone simply realizing they are dreaming, is even more difficult and something that experienced lucid dreamers struggle with, he said. Gaining control of the dream is vital for work applications like practicing for an interview or designing a building—“Control is what we want,” Wollberg told EuroJournal.
The Halo and other headbands might help induce a lucid dream, but it’s a combination of the device and other mindfulness techniques that can help get people to that point of controlling a dream, Zadra said. These techniques include meditation, writing in a dream journal, and visualizing what will happen in a dream before going to sleep.
In response to this claim, Wollberg cited a series of studies that link the level of prefrontal cortex activation with the ability to control a dream. In short, the more stimulation there is, the better ability users have to control their dreams, he said. Many of the studies recommended additional testing to confirm their hypotheses.
Prophetic’s product relies on research being conducted by the Donders Institute, a brain research center in the Netherlands. From the institute’s studies, Prophetic will determine what specific areas of the brain need to be targeted and with what frequency of ultrasound waves to induce lucid dreams. The company expects to get this data in spring 2024 and to begin shipping devices in spring 2025.
Halos will cost around $1,500 to $2,000 each, Wollberg estimated. Consumers are able to reserve a product ahead of time with a refundable $100 down payment. Wollberg wouldn’t disclose how many people have signed up but said in the first few weeks after the company opened its reservation system, it generated “several hundred thousand dollars in booking revenue,” suggesting the wait list is in the thousands.
This story was originally featured on EuroJournal.com