Back in November of last year, we shared our progress on a side project that uses the Muse brain sensing headband to visualize brainwaves. We’re very happy to announce that phase 1 of Wave is done and available now on the iOS App Store. Muse easily connects to your mobile device through Bluetooth and measures brain signals by recording electrical activity of the brain with several sensors attached to the headband. This method, known as electroencephalography (EEG), has only just begun appearing in consumer gear, with Muse (by InteraXon in Toronto) being the first wearable headband.

One of its primary applications is as a meditation tool, offering a wide variety of benefits. Meditation has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, increase concentration, and improve the overall mental state. Muse is also widely used in research into brain activity and mindfulness training. Recently, for example, the Muse headset was used in a collaboration to help veterans with PTSD (link).

Our goal for this phase of Wave was to find a unique and pleasing way of representing the data gathered from Muse without being overly abstract, but also not too pedantic. A number of ideas and designs were tossed around (a couple of these can be seen in the previous post), including a version with superimposed sine waves representing each of the five brainwaves over a slowly animating grey noise texture (which was meant to represent the brain’s grey matter). However, we found this to be a little too busy and unappealing. Ultimately we ended up with the following design of a stylized data visualizer:

Wave visualization
Visualizing alpha and delta waves in the Wave app.

The circular shape, being the more abstract of the two, is nevertheless able to communicate more information at a discrete point in time. Its size reflects the absolute power of the brainwave being visualized, while the circle’s activity represents its relative strength compared to the other brainwaves. Furthermore, the brainwave’s variance of its absolute power affects the smoothness of the shapes’s edges. The graph, on the other hand, allows you to observe more subtle changes and has the advantage of being able to see amplitude change over a window of time. The app also responds to eye blinks and jaw clenches.

Preceding the visualization of each selected brainwave, a short snippet of information on that wave type is presented in order to contextualize the visualization. A more thorough understanding of the science behind brainwaves can be seen here, as well as in numerous other resources on the web.

Information snippet on alpha waves
Information on the alpha brainwave in the Wave app.

As mentioned at the start, this is only phase 1 of Wave, so it doesn’t end here! The applications of measuring brainwaves, and the benefits of meditation and mindfulness training continue to intrigue us, so additional features and enhancements to Wave are stirring in our minds. In the meantime, if you happen to have a Muse headset, give the app a try, and we would love to hear your feedback (which you can send to us right from within the app).

Download Wave from the App Store