Consumer Peripherals

Interface Helps Capture Dreams While You Sleep

30 April 2018
The Dormio system can influence dreams or record them. Source: MIT

There have been a host of wearables and other devices that have been created to monitor sleep patterns and help with getting a better sleep. Yet, nothing has been developed that helps people remember elusive dreams that we have every night.

Now, MIT is working on a project that will extend, influence and capture dreams in the sleep state between wakefulness and unconsciousness.

During sleep onset, a window of opportunity arises in the form of hypnagogia, a semi-lucid sleep state where we all begin dreaming before we fall fully unconscious. Hypnagogia is characterized by phenomenological unpredictability, distorted perception of space and time, loss of sense of self and fluid idea association.

Inventors Edison, Tesla, Poe and Dali each accessed this state by napping with a steel ball in hand, capturing creative ideas generated in hypnagogia microdreams when the ball crashed to the floor below.

MIT used this technique to come up with Dormio which uses a handworn sleep-stage tracking system, social robots’ interactive and embodied capabilities and auditory feedback on sleep stage transitions. Through Dormio, MIT was able to influence, extract information from and extend hypnagogic microdreams for the first time.

Biosignals through a glove track transitions in sleep stages. Source: MITBiosignals through a glove track transitions in sleep stages. Source: MITResearchers found all subjects indeed dreamed about themes chosen by experimenters prior to subject sleep and that active use of hypnagogia with the Dormio system can augment human creativity as measured by flexibility, fluency, elaboration and originality of thought. The system also enables future research into sleep, an underutilized and understudied state of mind vital for memory, learning and creativity, according to MIT.

How It Works

A user dons devices that collect biosignals that track transitions in sleep stages. In the MIT Dormio system, the signals come from the hand, where researchers gather data on loss of muscle tone, heart rate changes and changes in skin conductance. When the biosignals appear to signal the end of a transitional state, audio from the social robot is triggered and the person is knocked just a little bit back into wakefulness but not full wakefulness.

The audio cue is used as an inception protocol using slight wakeup with words and among test subjects the words reliably entered the hypnagogic dreams as dream content. After wake up, the social robot initiated a conversation about dream content and records anything said. After the conversation, the system lets users drift back toward sleep, only to interrupt them again when their biosignals appear to signal transition into deeper sleep and more dreams are extracted.

The next steps are to increase the number of subjects tests and if the system can transfer into later stage REM dream content. The team is also thinking of testing the memory, learning and emotion regulation effect of incepted hypnagogic content as a method of targeted reactivation.

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