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The $299 Muse headband can read your brain – indirectly, through observing brain activity at the skin level. The headband falls within the category of wearable technology 6 Upcoming Wearable Devices Compared: What's Hot and What's Not 6 Upcoming Wearable Devices Compared: What's Hot and What's Not I present to you six of the more interesting and useful wearable tech devices either on the market, or soon to enter it. Read More . Basically, it’s tech that you wear. Interaxon, the manufacturer, designed the headband to help users improve their meditation technique and lower anxiety. In a sense, the Muse allows users to hack their brain. Nothing like the Muse exists – nor will something like it likely ever exist. It’s one of the most unique products that I’ve ever tested.

So is the Indiegogo-funded Muse just another crowd-funded gimmick or does it actually improve one’s meditation technique? We’ll find out in this review, then we’ll be giving the Muse away.

What You Get

I applaud Interaxon’s packaging of the Muse. The packaging belies quality. The Muse itself comes in a separate, hard and clear plastic box, nestled within a well-decorated cardboard box. It includes an instruction manual and warranty card, along with a micro-USB charging cable. Based on the packaging and design, it’s clear someone put a lot of thought and effort into boxing the Muse.

Design and Aesthetics

On one hand, the Muse embodies stylish design and good build quality. There’s a headband with five metal sensor pads, lining a strip. The strip makes contact with the user’s forehead. Then there are two more sensors, located on the left and right earpieces. Along the earpiece is a silicone rubber guard, which allows it to make comfortable and snug contact with one’s ears. The headband itself can tighten so it’s easy to fit and holds its place quite well.

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Above the right earpiece sits a white LED status indicator. By holding the power button down, one can switch the headband on, turn it off, or flip it into Bluetooth pairing mode. The Muse also features dual micro-USB charging ports. I’m not sure why Muse decided to go with two ports, but this redundancy allows it to continue working, even if one port goes bad. Overall, Interaxon did an excellent job designing the Muse. The aesthetic quality feels quite good, although the headband itself feels a little on the flimsy side.

How It Works

The Muse headband measures electroencephalography reading (EEG) through its sensor apparatus. Because EEG is electro-conductive, it requires that your skin produce a small amount of perspiration in order to read electrical activity at the skin-level.

The Muse pairs with an app (available on iOS, OS X and Android) which guides the user through a simplified form of mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation works like this: The user attempts to relax by counting the number of breaths that they take. When paired with the Calm meditation app, the Muse displays a beach, the sounds of surf and wind, and a clouded sky. The clouds represent the user’s overall level of anxiety. By meditating, counting breaths, and relaxing, the clouds gradually dissipate.

Living With the Muse Headband

I tried a couple of meditation forms, but these don’t work with the Muse’s sensors. Essentially, Muse trains you to calm down. Meditation techniques other than mindfulness meditation won’t jell with the readings gathered from the Muse. The Muse can tell general levels of anxiety based on your brain’s EEG readings.

There’s a fairly short, although tedious, calibration period. The Calm app throws a series of questions at the user, such as “name as many colors as you can”. I assume this is intended to gauge what the user’s brain looks like when they think about a subject. Like the polygraph, it establishes a baseline for analyzing and dissecting one’s meditation technique.

The Calm app separates meditation quality into three categories:

  • Calm: This is the state you want. Calm indicates, as the name suggests, that the user’s EEG readings aren’t high. As EEG readings are indicative of mental activity, scoring highly in the Calm category means your brain is working less hard. I could always tell whether or not my Calm rating would be low or high
  • Neutral: Neutral States fall between Calm and Active. In general, when I score in the neutral area, I wasn’t thinking much. I was, however, still stressed out.
  • Active: Active occurs when one’s baseline EEG readings are higher than neutral.

After about a week, I noticed that my calmness started to increase. Seeing a visual representation of one’s internal anxiety (which is a visual form of biofeedback), allows the user to explore what exact behaviors, sitting positions and more, result in improved calmness. While it sounds rather obvious, I learned that counting on both the inhale and exhale seemed to improve my Calm score.

To illustrate, check out my scores:

muse one my meditation scores

As you can see, my best meditation session came at the very end of the week. I typically score around 30-40% Calm, with the remainder being Neutral and Active.

On a personal note, I gave the Muse the so-called “Pepsi Challenge”.

Could the EEG scores be a pile of rubbish? Just random numbers not indicative of meditation experience? In theory, someone highly experienced in mindfulness meditation should score better than a meditation novice. Fortunately, I managed to find a benchmark.

My mother practices mindfulness meditation, with experience going back over a decade. She has attended day-long meditation sessions, gone on week-long retreats and is the most knowledgeable persons on meditation whom I’ve ever known. So what did her scores look like?

my mother's meditation session

On her very first outing, she scored 98% Calm. Apparently, experienced meditation experts absolutely smash the Calm app. There’s not much she could learn from it. But, quite clearly, the Muse can tell the difference between trained and novice users. It does work.

Setup and Configuration

Setting up and configuring the Muse doesn’t require much effort. Simply install the Calm app on your device and initiate the Bluetooth pairing process.

Hardware

The Muse likely houses an ASIC or FPGA – an integrated circuit designed to perform a limited number of functions. It includes dual micro-USB charging ports (I’m not sure why), seven different EEG-based sensors and around 4-6 hours of active use for battery life. A pulsing, white LED light situates itself on the right earpiece. The entire circlet rests comfortably on the head, clasping about the top of the ears.

Software

At the software level, the Muse feels very much like a beta release. The Android app initially suffered from clipping around the borders, on my Nexus 7 tablet. To Interaxon’s credit, the display issues were corrected almost immediately. There’s also a disturbing lack of interactivity between the headband and the app. For example, after falling asleep wearing the device, I woke to a blazingly hot tablet. The Muse never goes to sleep, even if the user ceases interacting with the device or if the meditation session has ended. The Muse Calm app also offers a number of analysis tools. Users can access the following three features:

  • Browse Your Sessions: You can look at individual meditation performances.
  • Timeline View: This feature allows the user to view improvement over time.
  • Insights About You: This unlockable feature never unlocked for me. I suspect that either Interaxon never finished this feature (and will add it via update later) or it’s unlockable.

kannons data

The Calm app needs a lot more refinement before it’s ready for prime-time. My biggest gripe: I couldn’t get the app to work when not connected to the Internet. That’s a huge issue as not all of us (particularly those at meditation retreats) have constant Internet access.

Should you buy the Muse?

I found myself wishing that Interaxon included room for additional styles of meditation. Mindfulness meditation ranks among the most boring of techniques available. Although some scientific evidence suggests it does work, other methods are shown (in one study) to induce neurological changes – such as Integrated Body Mind Training. The iTunes App Store features a number of mindfulness meditation apps for iOS Practice Mindfulness With Help From Your iPhone & These Apps Practice Mindfulness With Help From Your iPhone & These Apps Inner calm and tranquility? There's an app for that. Read More .

The Muse does work – it helps in training yourself to meditate longer and with greater efficacy. My own results show clear improvement over time. However, for $300, the average consumer off-the-street will not benefit from a meditation aid – even one that produces tangible results. $300 buys a lot of gear. I would guess that most would benefit more from a Nexus 5 Google Nexus 5 Review and Giveaway Google Nexus 5 Review and Giveaway Approximately a year after Google released the Nexus 4, the company behind Android has come out with its successor -- the Nexus 5. Read More or from even a Basis Health Tracker Basis B1 Health Tracker Smartwatch (2014) Review and Giveaway Basis B1 Health Tracker Smartwatch (2014) Review and Giveaway Want to lose weight and think clearer? You might find help from the Basis B1 Health Tracker smartwatch. Read More . That said, for those who meditate all the time and want something to help improve their technique, nothing will likely ever beat the Muse.

For those interested in similar bio-hacking methods, check out our list of biohacking podcasts Top Podcasts to Take Your Biohacking to the Next Level Top Podcasts to Take Your Biohacking to the Next Level Can you biohack your way to improved mental and physical performance? Read More for more information.

MakeUseOf recommends: Don’t buy it, unless you’re a hardcore mindfulness meditation fanatic. For mindfulness meditation practitioners, the Muse will offer them powerful insights into their meditation habits.

How do I win the Muse?

You may enter by submitting your name and email address. You’ll receive one entry simply by doing so.

After that, you’ll also be offered various methods to earn additional entries. They range from sharing a link to this giveaway on social networks; to commenting or visiting a specific page. The more you participate, the higher your chances of winning! You will receive 5 additional entries into the giveaway for every successful referral via your shared links.

This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, August 29. The winner will be selected at random and informed via email. View the list of winners here.

The Winner

Congratulations, Jack Craig! You would have received an email from jackson@makeuseof.com. Please respond before September 8 to claim your prize. Enquires beyond this date will not be entertained.

Send your products to be reviewed. Contact Jackson Chung for further details.

  1. nikolas alexander
    August 30, 2014 at 8:23 am

    would like to try out this tech see how it works.

  2. Igor S
    August 29, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    Muse is a good technology.

  3. Sam K
    August 29, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    it'll help me in meditation.

  4. Mary Songer
    August 28, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    meditation is important to reducing stress and this would enable someone to reach a deeper state. I would love to try this.

  5. Chris K
    August 28, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    I'm a sceptic so I don't know if it'll work. If it does though I may benefit from my efforts in keeping an eye on monitoring my activity.

  6. notafakename
    August 28, 2014 at 12:44 am

    Based on what you described in your review this seems kind of like an affordable version of biofeedback therapy except with less functions and wires. That sounds like a good deal to me.

  7. rayon
    August 28, 2014 at 12:18 am

    Not all sound I hear is great . I like to hear a little closer ,but not too loud -just close. It would be great ones to hear

  8. Rahul
    August 27, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    Muse is a good technology. Its amazing , we can check individual performance while thinking and meditating. Muse can help make our brain efficient. Whoever win this will always try to beat his score in meditation haha.

  9. Aaron
    August 27, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    I could use a little more relaxation in my life, so if it works, I'd use it.

  10. ?????? ?
    August 25, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    Because it's awesome!!!

  11. Andriy K
    August 25, 2014 at 8:32 am

    Can't wait to try it.

  12. Gülbahar D.
    August 24, 2014 at 9:00 am

    I am willing that it will work for people.

  13. Gökhan G.
    August 24, 2014 at 8:58 am

    I hope it works.

  14. Aleksandr
    August 24, 2014 at 2:54 am

    Convenient item. I do not like headphones, crushed.

  15. Angela
    August 24, 2014 at 12:26 am

    I would love to get this product. Lots of great comments from people who would like to get this product. Lots of great pics. I look forward to reading a review done by someone who has purchased this product and received it.

  16. Dmitriy S
    August 23, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    Yes, it will help me!

  17. nitin hassija
    August 22, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    I am not sure. will have to use it and look for the response

  18. Bogdan S
    August 22, 2014 at 10:18 am

    Yes sometimes I wish people would be able to read my mind and figure out what I will do/am doing so I don't have to stop and explain every time! Hehe. This would help me figure out myself better maybe!

  19. Stan P
    August 22, 2014 at 8:05 am

    Not sure it would. We all think and act different and it surely works different for each and every one of us. I'd love to try it out! :)

  20. Vic L
    August 22, 2014 at 12:35 am

    This will help me for my stressful life.

  21. Francis I
    August 21, 2014 at 11:50 pm

    I learned to meditate while overseas. I was not really into it at all but regardless helped put my mind to rest either way. I'm down with improving my meditation game, especially when it involves strapping some tech to my head.

  22. Nathan B.
    August 21, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    As an aspiring software developer I think this would be an awesome way to relax and focus.

  23. Ahmed K
    August 21, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    Yes will help me think less & carm me down

  24. Stephan H
    August 21, 2014 at 6:40 am

    I think it would. I'm meditating occasionally, but don't feel any progress.

  25. Adly A
    August 20, 2014 at 6:51 am

    I don't really know. I have my own meditation techniques but this headband not gonna hurt to try, right?

  26. Bártfay Meszike Inke
    August 20, 2014 at 5:10 am

    Definitely it will help me relax.

  27. Lynda S
    August 19, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    I like calm.com and think I could get a good result from using this headband.

  28. Richard B
    August 19, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    Definitely it will help me relax.

  29. Dorothy H
    August 19, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Whatever.

  30. Gaurav Bhargava
    August 19, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    With the hectic schedules and need to be always on the go, we all can use some relaxation whenever we could get it. So given that, Muse will definitely help.

  31. Charlz Vic Perez
    August 18, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    YEs. A someone that could help me with my task!

  32. Victoria Jose
    August 18, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    Ill be in track., SO yes

  33. Zyra Anne Perez
    August 18, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    Simply a new way of lowering anxiety for me.

  34. Julie Gonzales
    August 18, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    I would. I ll be relaz for sure!

  35. Kany Vic Perez
    August 18, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    Of course it would help me relax for sure!

  36. Dave N
    August 18, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    I'm hoping I can find some way to use it for monitoring my sleep. If not, I could stand to relax a bit.

  37. Shady T
    August 18, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    yeah sure

  38. karina l
    August 18, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    I can use it to block out my baby's crying!

  39. Thomas
    August 17, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    I work in customer service. I could use some type of meditation/ calming device!

  40. sun
    August 17, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Yes. So I can get the feedback I need independently. Thank you.

  41. Alex
    August 17, 2014 at 7:39 am

    I hope i would benefit from it if it helps me to relax and calm is always a good idea in these times of stress

  42. Paul Yates
    August 17, 2014 at 4:56 am

    ohmmmm - couldn't hurt - could it?

  43. Philip Austin
    August 16, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    Wearable Tech utterly shudders me -

    At No Point Ever Will I Combine My Body With Tech

    Well Certainly Not For Vanity

  44. Raymond C
    August 16, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    probably, i always want someone or something that can tell me or make me realize the things that im actually doing

  45. Youssef Azza
    August 16, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    Of course I'd would benefit fro this product

  46. Peter H
    August 16, 2014 at 10:04 am

    No. I think I might physically hurt myself for spending $299 for such a thing.

  47. Alexander Koshmarkin
    August 16, 2014 at 8:07 am

    Of course. I have long wanted such a thing.

  48. Paul Pastrana
    August 16, 2014 at 6:57 am

    I can't say if I haven't tested it yet personally.

  49. Alexey P
    August 15, 2014 at 10:11 pm

    I hope so...

  50. Mike
    August 14, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    Definitely. It would be great to be able to get feedback on how effective my meditation are.

  51. Barett
    August 14, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    Caaaaalming is what I need

  52. Thalia
    August 14, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    I think so.

  53. JeffC
    August 14, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Maybe.

  54. Arpit Kharbanda
    August 14, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    I'LL BETTER STAY CONCENTRATED WITH THIS. JUST WANT THIS FANTABULOUS THING ;)

  55. Marco Quiros
    August 14, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    Probably yes, It helps to overcome stress make your mind calm, peaceful and to think in a good way. and you can easily overcome problems I think

  56. Ron Ablang
    August 14, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    I don't believe I would benefit from this product.

  57. Sean M
    August 14, 2014 at 11:45 am

    I don't think I'd use it for it's intended purpose. Maybe a good hack on it would find another interesting use for it

  58. Boogs B
    August 14, 2014 at 6:49 am

    Yes, because sometimes I think too much.

  59. Alexandru S
    August 14, 2014 at 4:46 am

    Honestly, I have no idea. I would need one, to try it myself and see.

  60. Ashok Kumar
    August 14, 2014 at 4:25 am

    Not sure but no harm in trying. I am sure it will calm me down a notch and that will be great.. :)

  61. Don
    August 14, 2014 at 1:16 am

    My life coach has suggested mindfulness training. This could be very helpful in advancing that process

  62. JeffC
    August 14, 2014 at 12:31 am

    There appears to be something wrong with the widget. I tried entering in Chrome and Firefox with no response after clicking the enter now button.

  63. Marg Barazi
    August 14, 2014 at 12:17 am

    I used to meditate regularly, even going on meditative retreats several times a year. But as my family grew my time for meditation shrunk until I stopped altogether. I have just begun integrating mindfulness meditation back into my life and this sounds like it would actually be a big help. Thanks for the review.

  64. tapaleurre
    August 13, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    I wold use this, i'm curious!

  65. Grace
    August 13, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    Could certainly use some calm in my life!

  66. Michael K
    August 13, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    I can't really say as of yet, but i'd love to toy with it :-)

  67. Keith W
    August 13, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    Not sure how but I'd give it a try :-)

  68. Denis K
    August 13, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Muse one helps me do more with my mind by helping me calm and settle my mind

  69. Alex S
    August 13, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    No, not really. But it would be fun to try to get something useful from it.

  70. DAN J
    August 13, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    I think it would help me get one step closer to being a cyborg.

  71. Paul V
    August 13, 2014 at 11:26 am

    Don't know ...super powers?

  72. John Walsh
    August 13, 2014 at 8:37 am

    Up to now worry beads do it for me.............simple hardware and the software is in the brain. The rest is up to me.

  73. Manuel E
    August 13, 2014 at 6:15 am

    i think this can help my bad humour sometimes

  74. Wi F
    August 13, 2014 at 4:41 am

    The widget won't accept my email address for some reason. Does anyone know how to fix this? I have entered previous competitions with no problem.

    • Vic L
      August 13, 2014 at 5:26 am

      Same here.

    • Kannon Y
      August 13, 2014 at 10:00 am

      Have you tried clearing cookies? It's usually in the browser settings under privacy or security.

    • Jackson Chung
      August 16, 2014 at 12:49 am

      The issue has been resolved, please try again.

  75. Eric R
    August 13, 2014 at 3:52 am

    I think muse would help my with my disorder that causes me to shake.

  76. Sandy Coulter
    August 13, 2014 at 3:03 am

    Something is wrong with the widget or my browser tonight. I can't tweet or circle or follow, but I really would like to be able to meditate, and this looks like it will help quiet my overactive brain.

  77. Tri N
    August 13, 2014 at 2:58 am

    Yes...it would help me look a lot cooler

  78. Jon
    August 13, 2014 at 2:26 am

    I would like to have more control over my emotions and hope that this device would allow that to happen.

  79. Andrew
    August 13, 2014 at 2:13 am

    I'd guess that I'd benefit from this, since I have no experience with meditation.

  80. Dianne
    August 13, 2014 at 1:08 am

    I love to do meditation, but find it is not easy to relax. So I think this is just what I need :)

  81. Piroska
    August 13, 2014 at 12:19 am

    Yes, I believe it would help me reduce my stress level.

  82. Lawrence Wolfson
    August 13, 2014 at 12:04 am

    Yes, I can benefit due to the fact ai wear hearing ads.

  83. Brian Kautz
    August 12, 2014 at 11:36 pm

    I think it's more of a placebo effect

  84. Tiffany Aytes
    August 12, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    I need to help me with my stress before a have a heart attack from it.

  85. Dave Wells
    August 12, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    Yes because it would help me to meditate for longer..

  86. Bill
    August 12, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    yes! - at this time I really could use some meditation to help in my personal life.

  87. Joel G
    August 12, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    Not at this time, but it would be nice to have one :)

  88. mike
    August 12, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    - continued - when I try to enter the giveaway?

  89. mike
    August 12, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    why does my email have a red exclamation mark next to it?

    • Jackson Chung
      August 16, 2014 at 12:49 am

      There was a bug related to user login. We've fixed it, so please try again.

  90. Terry
    August 12, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    I'm having problems that are affecting my ability to work. Perhaps this would help.

  91. Gord
    August 12, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    No I don't think there is any benefit for me in using this device. My life is good and calm with things going well for me.

  92. DonGateley
    August 12, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    I'd try it too could I afford it. I think the primary value of it would be as a motivator to start and to continue practicing meditation. The device itself would act as a reminder and the cost would act as a motivator until the intrinsic rewards of the practice start being felt. I would assume that if it proves successful the app would evolve with more and more useful functions and techniques.

    I too have ADHD and as a consequence have proved immune to hypnosis and meditative states. I would try this just to see if it helps overcome the associated inability to remain focused by providing something extrinsic.

    I'd sure like to subscribe to this comment thread if a way were provided to do so.

  93. Rick
    August 12, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    Yes, this would be great to use for distressing and finding your center.

  94. Antonio R
    August 12, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Actually I don't know, but it worth a try

  95. Jared Turner
    August 12, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    I'd like to try it, then maybe try hacking it...

  96. Dany B
    August 12, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    I am not sure, but I sure want to try it.

  97. Scott M
    August 12, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    I just like toys, so I'd like to see what it does. I'm sure some poindexter will come up with some unintended use as it's lifecycle moves along.

  98. MarkTGT
    August 12, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    THis is a little spooky, but I am always looking for a beer way of doing things. I'd try it.

  99. Paul Harris
    August 12, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    I think that this type of meditation is similar to self-hypnosis, which I dabbled with years ago.
    Total relaxation, slowing your breathing and concentration on a peaceful scene.
    This may be a way of reducing ones high blood pressure.
    I would like to try this out to see if it works.

  100. Artis
    August 12, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    I will benefit from confirming how weird my brain is compared to other people :D

  101. Anthony
    August 12, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    It would be interested to get some objective feedback from what is largely a subjective practice - it could help determine what is and isn't working, track how results are affected by outside influence (work stress, sleep, etc.).

  102. Dan V
    August 12, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    Like so many tools and self improvement activities, it will only do me good if I use it.

  103. Ed Graham
    August 12, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    Don't think I want one. Probably just another way for the NSA to find out what we're thinking.

    That won't work either...

  104. Stephen G.
    August 12, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    I'd be interested to try to Muse One. I intend to try meditation to reduce my anxiety, and the Muse One would help. When I have tried meditation previously, I always worried I'm not doing it properly. Having an external measure would help to allay that fear.

  105. Bártfay Meszike I
    August 12, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    Thank you giveaway!

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