Targeted Dream Incubation (TDI) takes sleep tracking and dream research to the next level

Dream Tracking and influencing with a wearable
Credit: Oscar Rosello

Neuroscience has demonstrated sleep is crucial for memory consolidation, creative insight generation, learning, emotion regulation, and more. More and more tech platforms such as Apple, Garmin, Fitbit, and Whoop are providing sleep tracking features with their wearables.

Dormino, a sleep tracking device designed at the MIT media labs takes sleep tracking to the next level. The wearable and its app can be used to track dreams, analyze them, and also alter the content of a person’s dreams.

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How MIT’s Dormino works to track your sleep and analyze your dreams

Dormino tracks hypnagogia (Hypnagogia is the experience of the transitional state between wakefulness and sleep in humans) and delivers audio cues based on incoming physiological data, at precise times in the sleep cycle, to make dream direction possible. 

Upon awakening, a person’s guided dream content can be used to complete tasks such as creative story writing and compared experimentally to waking thought content.

You can think of this as a way of understanding ‘Lucid Dreams’.

A user wears a device that collects biosignals that track transitions in sleep stages. In the case of Dormino, those signals come from the hand, where it can help gather data on loss of muscle tone, heart rate changes, and changes in skin conductance.

When those biosignals appear to signal the end of a transitional state, audio from the social robot is triggered, and that person is knocked just a little bit back into wakefulness, but not into full wakefulness.

“Dormio takes dream research to a new level, interacting directly with an individual’s dreaming brain and manipulating the actual content of their dreams,” says Robert Stickgold, director of the Center for Sleep and Cognition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “The potential value of Dormio for enhancing learning and creativity are literally mind-blowing.”

In a new paper, released this month, researchers from the Media Lab’s Fluid Interfaces group introduce a novel method called “Targeted Dream Incubation” (TDI) that works with Dormino.

This protocol, implemented through an app in conjunction with a wearable sleep-tracking sensor device, not only helps record dream reports, but also guides dreams toward particular themes by repeating targeted information at sleep onset, thereby enabling the incorporation of this information into dream content. 

Targeted Dream Incubation controlled experimentation

The TDI method and accompanying technology serve as tools for controlled experimentation in dream study, widening avenues for research into how dreams impact emotion, creativity, memory, and beyond.

An enhanced Dormio device has now also been built, as well as an analysis platform, streaming platform, an iOS app for audio capture and streaming, and a web app for audio capture, storage, and streaming.

These mobile and online platforms allow the TDI method to be shared through a variety of open source technologies.

Will you use the feature if one of the popular wearables available today incorporated the technology into its sleep tracking features?

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Sudz Niel Kar
I am a technologist with years of experience with Apple and wearOS products, have a BS in Computer Science and an MBA specializing in emerging tech, and owned the popular site AppleToolBox. In my day job, I advise Fortune 500 companies with their digital transformation strategies and also consult with numerous digital health startups in an advisory capacity. I'm VERY interested in exploring the digital health and fitness-tech evolution and keeping a close eye on patents, FDA approvals, strategic partnerships, and developments happening in the wearables and digital health sector. When I'm not writing or presenting, I run with my Apple Watch Ultra or Samsung Galaxy Watch and closely monitor my HRV and other recovery metrics.


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