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Megabrain report - April 1990

“Big things in small packages: new products”

The Dreamer, The Courier, The Alpha Stim CS

The Dreamer

Before discussing the quality of the Dreamer I have to say that this new sound and light machine represents a breakthrough: to my knowledge it's the first truly mass-produced mass-market brain machine. Welcome to the new world of consumer brain technology. The Dreamer's tiny, weighs only a few ounces, provides six different preprogrammed sessions using four different modes of stimulation (i.e. alternating the sound and light between left and right, eyes and ears, stimulating both eyes and ears simultaneously), and is so simple to operate you only need to press one button for a full session.

The European manufacturer, Stéphane Krsmanovic-Dumonceau, managing director of Fonda-mental sa, Belgium is also searcher at the university of Brussels. First active in R.E.S.T (restricted environmental stimulations technique) he turn his interrest from 1987 in research on light and sound stimulations technologies. He has invested in totally automating the assembly of this device -the factory is tooled up so that hundreds of the devices are stamped out and put together simultaneously, without any hand assembly (which is where quality control problems can creep in). The whole thing is sealed together and sold at an attractive US $250 with a one year warranty on parts and workmanship.

This is a significant advance. Those of you who remember the first hand-held calculators from Texas Instruments in the mid-70s recall that they were big, clunky, and cost more than US $150. Now thanks to mass produced circuitry and other advances far more sophisticated calculators the size of a credit card cost only a couple of bucks, and are given away for promotional purposes like balloons and calendars used to be.

Similarly, I think the mass-production of the Dreamer represents an important step toward making mind-enhancement technology simple, attractive, unthreatening and inexpensive enough to appeal to (and be cheap enough to be bought by) those millions and millions of wonderful humans we call The Mainstream.

That said, we can turn our attention to the quality of the device and the experiences it provides. The first thing most users comment on is the lights, and their cornrnents are usuaIly something like, "Wow!" The lights, four red LEDs in front of each eye, are super-bright (the LEDs on most current sound and Iight devices produce about 500 millicandles of light each; these produce some 2000 millicandles each), and stimulate extremely intense and colorful visual imagery. Too intense for sorne users. Fortunately The Dreamer provides a high/low light intensity regulator, but even so these lights may be too strong for some.

The sounds, basicaIly the combination of a single tone and white noise, which can be adjusted (but only to loud or soft), are very basic. Sorme users find the sound quality irritating. There is an input jack for an external sound source, such as a CD player. Most users l've compared notes with have found the six preprogrammed sessions effective. Generally they begin with a sweep that goes down to alpha, back up to high beta and then ramps down (or up) toward the target frequency. The sessions are: Sleep (a 30 minute session that leaves you in delta at 3 Hz); Concentration (30 minutes that takes you up to a stimulating 25 Hz); Meditation/ Learning (a 40 minute theta induction at 5 to 7 Hz); Anti-Stress (15 minutes at 9 Hz alpha­, ideal for a "stress-break" at work); Relaxation (40 minutes, much of it at 9 Hz alpha); and Creativity (30 minutes mixing alpha and beta). The above description points up some of the drawbacks of the Dreamer: while it's delight­fully simple, it's also very Iimited. While I haven't used it long enough yet to have become accustomed to each program, I suspect that those who like new experiences might become bored with the six sessions. There are numerous sound and Iight machines on the market that are far more sophisticated (such as THE COURIER, reviewed next). These devices are also more costly and, to certain would-be users, dauntingly complex. What we face, as mind machines enter the mainstream, is the same divergence of tastes and interests that personal computers encoun­tered. Some people are explorers, experimen­talists and hackers, and they want advanced and sophisticated devices that permit them to design and store a large array of their own programs. Other people don't care about the technology at aIl, they just have certain things they hope the device can help them accom­plish: they don't care what kind of computer they have as long as it's easy to use for word processing; they don't care about how the mind machine works, as long as it's simple to operate and puts them to sleep, relaxes them, or is fun. You don't need a mainframe to play Nintendo games.

The Dreamer is fun and effective, and the best device to come along so far for those who seek utter simplicity. It's not sophisticated, but that doesn't mean it can't provide even the most experienced mind-machine aficionado with an exciting experience. One friend who makes a multi-modal mind-enhancement system that costs thousands of dollars and incorporates a sound and light system tried out the Dreamer when I first received it and loved the lights so much he actually wondered if there was some way he could use the goggles with his own system! This is the first of what I expect will be a succession of well-designed, mass­produced, user-friendly mind machines.

M. Hutchinson

Coming Soon!

The MEGABRAIN REPORT Computer Bulletin Board

We are now working to set up a computer bulletin board that will allow subscribers to participate in MBR studies; to contribute to and get access to our data base of information about research in brain-enhancement technology and consciousness; to respond to our MEGABRAIN REPORT FORUM directly; to participate in freewheeling, ongoing discus­sions related to consciousness technology with other MBR subscribers and contributors; to get access to more detailed information about articles published in the newsletter, and much more.