Mind Machines might just be the next big thing explains Alex Whybrow, who is fascinated by the ability these machines have to aid meditation, relaxation and sleep. Find out how he got on with 5 of the best mind machines in his guide below…
Written by Alex Whybrow – fact checked by Jason M & the editorial team
Alex is a full time writer. He is a creative soul who loves to express himself through his written word. When focus or concentration becomes an issue he turns to nootropics. Aside from the world of nootropic supplementation and writing, Alex is a huge fan of coffee and can regularly be found consuming it and writing about it.
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It feels like two, seemingly opposite, trends have been building for a while now. On the one hand, you have a very modern urge for the digitization of everything – smart gadgets and everything on demand.
On the other hand we have a developing interest in ancient traditions and customs to help us navigate through these ever-changing times – every business guru seems to quote Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War’, and everybody seems to be meditating.
I suppose it was only a matter of time before these worlds collided – the result is Mind machines.
What Are Mind Machines?
Mind Machines usually take the form of goggles, or some kind of headset, that is used in conjunction with headphones. The idea is that the device will play calming, rhythmic sounds at the same time as flashing lights – with the aim of altering the user’s brainwaves.
It sounds pretty intense, doesn’t it? Well the end-goal is anything but ‘intense’. The idea is that Mind Machines induce a state of deep relaxation – sort of like a shortcut to meditation. You put the headset on, and within seconds you are transformed into an altered state – a more calm, relaxed state.
They are sometimes known as Brain Machines, Meditation Machines, Mind Hacking Machines or Light and Sound Machines.
How Mind Machines Work
Mind Machines use binaural beats to alter your brainwaves. Binaural beats are when two tones, played at differing frequencies in each ear – cause your brain to react by creating a third tone. This is the binaural beat, and it is at the frequency difference between the two tones that are playing.
This stimulates alpha, beta, gamma and theta brainwaves – all thought to trigger a meditative focus and in some cases, an altered state of consciousness.
This is usually accompanied by patterns of flashing lights which are syncronized to the sound – this tends to speed up the impact of the binaural beats.
Think of it as staring into a flickering flame while listening to some relaxing music – but a heightened version of that. Your brainwaves are overwhelmed by the stimulation, which quietens down the ‘noise’ or chatter of your brain – you are relaxed and focused.
Different Mind Machines can provoke different reactions, and most are connected to the Internet nowadays so you can receive updates and new patterns. There are plenty of choices.
Top 5 Mind Machines
We thought it would be helpful to look at some of the best Mind Machines that are available today – here are our Top 5:
We’ll kick things off with the most expensive Mind Machine that we are going to be looking at today – the Kasina from MindPlace.
As they say themselves on their website, they have been slightly ahead of the curve – created way back in 1988 MindPlace are the oldest meditation technology producers around. Does that experience translate to high quality?
It certainly does have everything you could want from a Mind Machine. Named Kasina after an ancient form of meditation that uses visual objects to focus the mind, this is the complete package.
You’ll get the ‘Ganzframes Multi-Color’ eyewear which can display over 250 shades of color and has 16 different color-mapping settings – able to turn the music into a dazzling light-show. There are six different LEDs per eye – giving you a really vivid image. You also get their DeepVision Ganzframes for an ‘eyes open’ experience
The ear-bud style headphones are comfortable and give a good sound quality for the sounds, which you play via the accompanying console. This has an in-built mp3 player and includes an 8gb microSD memory card – more than enough to pack with relaxing sounds. It is loaded with sounds from nature, isochronic pulses and binaural beats, but you are free to create your own sessions.
Use it to help you sleep, meditate or find an alternative mental state – it is capable of everything you could ask for from a Mind Machine.
We found the Kasina to really help to invoke a sense of relaxation quicker and more deeply than any of the other devices we tested – so if you are looking for the best mind machine on the market and budget is not a concern then this is it. It’s not overly expensive but is a premium product that you will not be disappointed with if you decide to buy.
One of the latest releases from MindPlace is the Limina – the ‘next best’ product that they offer after the Kasina, and is priced accordingly making it a more affordable option.
You get the same pairs of eyewear in this package – so the same 250+ shades of color and with 6 LEDs per eye. Plus, of course, the DeepVision eyewear for use with your eyes open. You also get the same kind of ear-bud headphones.
The main difference between the two products is the console. With the Limina you will require 2 AA batteries, rather than the rechargeable lithium battery which comes with the Kasina.
The Limina is pre-loaded with more sessions than the Kasina, over 100 compared to around 70, but with the Limina you are not able to upload your own music to create your own, personalized sessions – this may not be a problem for people that are just getting started with Mind Machines. In fact, the greater choice may appeal to them more and they may not be interested in creating their own sessions.
As a result, the Limina is a great place to start if you are looking for your first Mind Machine.
Something a bit different now from InteraXon – a Canadian company specializing in brain-sensing technology. Their showpiece at the 2010 Winter Olympics enabled people across Canada to control lights on the CN Tower, Niagara Falls and Canada’s Parliament buildings with their minds!
In 2014 they launched their first Muse headband which monitors your brain in the same kind of way a heart monitor monitors your heart. Today we are looking at their flagship product – the Muse S.
It takes a very different direction to the MindPlace products – for a start, there aren’t any goggles, or eyewear of any kind, that comes with it – it is just a headband.
The Muse S records your brain activity, and provides you with real-time feedback on your brain as well as your heart, breathing and body. It also tracks your sleep, should you wish to wear it to aid sleep, and you can track the quality of your sleep.
It’s very comfortable to wear, and the battery lasts for 10 hours, as you would hope if it is to be worn when sleeping.
Rather than a console, it is controlled with an app on your phone – from which you can connect to your headband via Bluetooth and select what you listen to from the ever-expanding library of meditation sessions and soothing sounds via headphones (not provided). The sounds will alter depending on your brain activity.
This product goes much deeper than many Mind Machines, and provides you with so much data that it is perfect if you don’t just want to relax, you want to monitor the health of your brain and body too.
The latest Muse product is the Muse 2 – a cheaper option than the Muse S and the cheapest product that we have looked at so far. Does that mean that it is severely lacking in features and quality?
Well, no, not really. Not if you want to primarily use your Mind Machine to aid meditation.
You still get the main selling point of the Muse products – the real-time feedback for your brain. You still get the altering soundscapes that react to the readings of your brain. You still get to connect to and access the Muse app and the vast library that it contains.
The big difference is that the Muse 2 is not designed to aid sleep. For one, it wouldn’t be anywhere near as comfortable to wear when you are sleeping, and with a five-hour battery life, it wouldn’t last for an entire night.
For meditation, though, it is great. You can really track your progress to see how relaxed you are and how your brain reacts to the sessions – it is perfect for both beginners and experts in meditation – the results are always fascinating and can help you improve.
A great option for those that sleep well, but want to improve their meditation.
We finish our list of the top Mind Machines with our ‘budget’ option, coming in at under $200. This is from a company called Entertech – another group of brain science specialists.
Flowtime offers a more similar package to Muse, rather than MindPlace, in that there are no goggles and the focus is on reading your brain as much as it is impacting it.
This device will guide you through your meditation, with your headband that is connected to the Flowtime app, again via Bluetooth. You can also link it to other apps so you can listen to your own sounds while meditating.
The reports that you get are fantastic – arguably more detailed than the ones you get from Muse. With graphs and charts to display your brainwave activity, heart rate, breath coherence – even your emotion – this has all the data you could possibly want.
The only real drawback in comparison with Muse is that the readings don’t impact your session – the sounds don’t respond to your brain activity like they do with the Muse devices.
That said, if data is your thing, you will struggle to find a more detailed device than Flowtime.
Mind Machines can really enhance your meditation sessions, and can help you improve your performance. You can reach states of much deeper relaxation with these aids and/or monitor your performance to identify areas that you need to improve.
As you will have seen from our list above, Mind Machines can vary in terms of what they offer you – from the intense experience of the MindPlace products to the more scientific approach of Muse. It is important to think about what you want from a Mind Machine – use this list as a guide to help you make the best decision based on your specific wants and needs.
This article was written by: Alex Whybrow – Full Time Writer, Coffee Connoisseur & Nootropic Fan
Alex spends a lot of his time writing. He is a creative soul who loves to express himself through his written word. When focus or concentration becomes an issue he turns to nootropics. Aside from the world of nootropic supplementation and writing, Alex is a huge fan of coffee and can regularly be found consuming it and writing about it.