What if a device could tell you what your mind looked like? Melon is a new device and mobile app that measures — and claims to improve — focus by measuring the electrical activity coming off your brain. If it sounds like science fiction, well, it kind of looks like science fiction, too. But the Melon headband could very well change the way we think about self-tracking and the Quantified Self movement.
What It Is
The team behind Melon launched a Kickstarter campaign on Tuesday, and they’re looking to raise $100,000 in 30 days to mass-produce their headband. The headband is connected via Bluetooth to a mobile app which shows in real time how well you're focusing. A small white line appears on screen when the app is activated, rising and falling as you work.
Before getting to work with Melon, users are prompted in the app to provide a bunch of details like where they’re working, what they’re doing, if they're on a deadline, and even what kind of music they’re listening to. The app and headband can then track when focus (ie. electrical activity) decreases and offer tips to improve it. Been working too long? Melon can detect when you lose focus and suggest you get up to stretch. If that doesn't help, Melon will make a note and offer a different suggestion next time.
The app also comes with an origami minigame where the more you focus, the faster you can "mentally" fold origami just by concentrating on each move.
Why It Matters
Melon is a cool idea (mind reading!), but the real power of the concept is how little direction it has. Most devices are created to fulfill a specific purpose (better performance, better sleep, etc.). Melon is putting its money on users figuring out the best way of using it. The video above shows people using a consumer-level Melon to write essays, practice yoga, play games, and more. If you think Melon could help with a task, odds are you can give it a shot.
Melon’s creators also designed the device and software to be hacked, modified, and improved. As part of their Kickstarter, Melon is offering up software development kits and hacking documentation to help people play with the tech behind the device. Think there's a better way of manipulating Melon? The makers are sure hoping you'll try.
Is It Legit?
Yes, kind of. Melon can come off looking like a gimmick, but it's backed by good science. Melon partnered with NeuroSky, which claims to measure EEG (or electroencephalography) with 96 percent accuracy. The headband displays "focus" by using EEG to measure brain activity. Essentially, everything your brain does gives off a small electrical charge. The headband places three electrodes on the forehead, which catch these charges and convert it into data on your mobile phone.
So why the "kind of?" Despite all the science, it's hard to directly correlate electrical activity from the brain with performance on any given task. For example, did my focus improve because I respond to classical music? Because I stretched? Because I finally closed my Facebook tab? Melon can approximate results, but it's not strictly measuring cause and effect.
That said, Melon is a fresh approach and a tool that could help people hack their brain — but it won’t cure all our productivity problems overnight. Melon is essentially open-source, encouraging experimentation and exploration of how we can better use our brains.
Cool tech, or totally nuts? Let us know if you'd back Melon in the comments below or find the author on Twitter at @zsniderman.