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Nov
27

Remee is a cash grab and here’s why

 Remee is a cash grab, and here’s why:

When I first learned about Remee in May 2012 from a reader of my blog, I was excited. I thought that the future is here, and the 80$ lucid dreaming aid is reality. I even put up a link to their kickstarter page on my site.  When my Remee finally arrived, I realized I was wrong.

Yes, I own remee

You see, in the 6 months it took to get the mask, I’ve heard about Remee mentioned next to real lucid dreaming induction masks, like NovaDreamer and REMDreamer so many times, that I started to believe I’m getting the real deal…cheap.

With the name like Remee, it’s easy to get confused. It turns out I was wrong, and should’ve read the fine print. The fine print (somewhere in the comments section) says:

“Remee does not detect REM(Rapid Eye Movement) sleep”.

 

What is this REM sleep?

Rapid Eye Movement sleep is when you are most likely to dream, and most likely to remember your dreams. The amount of REM sleep is unequal throughout the night, with the majority of it starting to appear towards the end of the night. REM sleep occurs as a part of  sleep cycles, which are roughly 90 minutes long. Later sleep cycles have more REM sleep, thus more intense and long dreaming. A person can dream in non-REM, but is less likely to remember such dreams. A person can stay in REM and not dream coherently.

While you may see pretty-looking hypnograms posted on the web, the real distribution of REM sleep varies from night to night and is heavily influenced by:

  • Use of alcohol and caffeine (REM Rebound effect)
  • Use of medications and drugs

REM periods, and dreaming within a REM may start earlier or later, be hazy or crystal clear. There are a lot of variables to account for.

 

What is a cash grab?

Cash grab is the use of hype to get as much money out of a movie or video game sequel as possible, before the reviews come out. The publisher knows that the movie or game would not live up to overly inflated expectations, but does not care. I see Remee as very similar in most respects – a lot of hype surrounding the release, while downplaying it’s weak points:

  • No REM detection
  • Low overall success rate of lucid dreaming masks
  • Training requirement to recognize the cue

 

Real Lucid Dreaming Masks – what do they do?

Real lucid dream induction masks(300$+), like NovaDreamer and REMDreamer are built around these two principles:

  1. Detect when the user is experiencing REM Sleep by monitoring eye movements
  2. Produce a signal to the user

A real lucid dream induction mask uses eye movement sensors to actually detect when the user’s eyes exhibit slow rolling or other kinds of movement that is frequently observed in REM sleep. The only need for timer in such masks is to enable detection after some time delay. Unlike the real ones, Remee simply starts flashing after a timer has counted down 4.5 hours.

The intention of the real masks is to limit lucid dream induction attempts to the REM phase only, and to minimize the disruption of regular sleep. Signals sent during non-REM sleep are at best harmless, at worst they wake you up and you cannot go back to sleep. Because Remee does not detect REM sleep, it is just  a bunch of LED lights sewn into a mask, with a timer circuit attached. It will flash light whenever the timer fires, without regard for whether you are dreaming or not. In vernacular, Remee is not a  real lucid dreaming mask.

 

Why random timers do not work.

I’m a sleep researcher. I built two lucid dream induction apps for Android and iPhone. I look at my sleep cycle graphs with Zeo Sleep Manager’s EEG, and over the last year I’ve recorded over 700 dreams times in my electronic dream journal, like in the screenshot.

Each green marker stands for the time when I’ve woken up from a dream. I have complete 90 days of sleep history published, if you wish to review it.

I hope this gives me some authority to speak on lucid dream induction, and what I have to say is:

  • The dreaming period is short.
  • Even if I remember 6 dreams in a night, they are less than 15 minutes long, with most being about 5 minutes.
  • The times of dreams shift from night to night
For example, in the image to the right, I experience two more or less consistent dream awakenings: one at around 6AM, another one is at around 7:30 AM. Mind you that this is after monitoring my sleep history for 90 days. A regular person would not have this information available.
Why Remee timer would fail to catch this “clear and predictable” pattern of awakening? Take a look at the black circle to the left of green ones. This circle indicates when I went to bed at a particular day. If you count the number of hours from the black circle until 6AM or 7:30 AM, you will notice that the times are not consistent: on one day it is 4.5 hours, on another day it is 3.8 hours, then around 3 hours. With Remee, I have a single shot with a followup at hitting my dream. But if your bedtime changes, and your dream times change, then it would be very hard to hit a 15 minute dreaming window that occurs around 4.5 hours after bedtime. Arm your timer too early and it will, at best do nothing, arm it too late, and it will flash when you are awake.
Now, here’s another catch: Notice how some circles on my sleep history are brighter than others? These bright green circles are high-clarity, long dreams, while dark green circles are fragments. Not only do I have to hit the correct dream time with Remee, I also have to hit the correct dream intensity.
I tried, and thousands of users of my app tried, but hitting REM, even with a “smart timer” is hard, and I have not heard many success stories. Hitting REM with a blind timer is  a ridiculous task.

 

Why I’m upset at Remee.

It’s a harmless gimmick, right? So what if people put 80$ for a harmless sleeping mask?  The answer is simple – such cash grabs hurt the public’s good faith in development of real, evidence and science based lucid dream induction aids, like halographs. The incredible amount of hype and publicity around the Remee will easily turn sour, once people realize that the mask does not work as advertised.

For example, I’ve bought several “lucid dream induction pills” on the web. They were all crap. Will I buy lucid dream induction pills again? Highly unlikely, unless there’s a ridiculous amount of evidence that pills work safely. Now lets say a biohacking team comes up with a semi-working lucid dream induction pill. To market this pill, they have to fight an uphill battle against all the crap publicity that will remain on the web forever from the previous scammy lucid dream induction pills.  The public’s good faith in the product has been tarnished.

Another example – a lucid dream induction app comes along that is marginally effective. Now it has to fight against all the existing publicity and hyperlinks to this site, and my apps. Will a user download another lucid dream induction app after the first X failed? Possibly, but not for 9.99$. This means a lot of effort put into marketing, something that most engineers, scientists and hackers are not accustomed to. As such, a new semi-working lucid dream induction app is less likely to get off the ground, and is less likely to be completed and made functional.

Finally, the Remee, a lucid dreaming mask. It’s cheap, so many people may get it. But without REM detection, most people would just put it on the shelf after less than a dozen attempts. Would these people buy another lucid dream induction mask? Would they buy the new and improved Nova Dreamer and support real lucid dreaming research? Something tells me that these people would be wary of spending money on lucid dreaming products.

Real lucid dream induction masks are built by researchers who spent quite a lot of time on… research and development. Such people are not the best at marketing, and the high product cost of their products keeps amateurs away. With 80$ Remee, which will soon flood eBay for like 30$, novices are exposed to the mask, that looks like a lucid dreaming mask and shines light. Such novices will not know better to distinguish between the real mask that detects REM and a gimmick that only shines light, because they look the same. Think the following conversation:

  • “What do you think of Lucid dream induction masks?”
  • “Oh, they don’t work, I got one”

What is REM enhancement anyway?

The project’s name is  Remee, an REM (rapid eye movement) enhancing mask. The first thing that bothers me is the name REMee. Each lucid dreamer will recognize the term REM in the name. Why is REM there, if the mask is just a timer? It simply confuses potential customers, sure did trick me into seeing what I wanted to see.

One might ask, what is REM enhancement? How can the interaction of 100 billion neurons, making 100 trillion connections, and exhibiting a cyclical pattern of activity each sleep cycle be enhanced by 6 light emitting diodes?  Hmm. I’m out of ideas here. What I would be concerned about is that it does not disrupt my sleep.

 

Wrong, oh so wrong

I’m amazed at the amount of hype and publicity that surrounded the release of Remee, a lucid dreaming aid that does not even detect REM, even though articles like the one below might make you believe a whole bunch of things that the mask might do. They make you hear what you want to hear:

With Remee, a series of flashing red lights on your sleep mask will appear within your dreams, reminding you that you’re in a dream state. Once those stimuli are acknowledged and understood, a user can begin lucid dreaming as they say see fit. From person to person, lucid dreaming can be a great many things — a means to fly, teleport or meet famous people.

This is wrong, because light cues will occasionally integrate into your dreams, and will appear as random light. Not red. Not flashing. Random. Occasionally the user will recognize that the lights are out of place. From what I’ve heard, the effectiveness of even the “real” lucid dream induction masks is from 13-30% for a trained user, on nights when the user puts effort into signal recognition.

The Remee mask will target the parts of your sleep pattern — typically toward the end — that fall under REM, where dreams occur. It is then that the six red lights under the mask will begin their work. If you’re not in REM, the lights will not effect your sleep, but if you are, it will present the opportunity for the user to become lucid.

What it should read: Remee is a hit and miss timer. It will fire after a static amount of time, with the possibility of some “wiggle”. As a developer of two lucid dream induction apps, I can tell you that this simply does not work that way:

  • REM times are not static
  • Dream times shift over the course of several days
  • REM times are dependent on how long it took you to fall asleep, and when you went to bed.

This means that using Remee after a delay is like tossing a dart in the dark and hoping that it sticks into something.  There are a few free timer-based lucid dreaming apps available for your smartphone –  try them and see if they work for you. But I would not drop 80-100$ on Remee, because in its current state, it’s a gimmick, no better than a timer circuit sewn in a sleeping mask’. I remind you that I backed the project 6 months ago and even posted links to the project.

Upgrade potential?

A close up of the remee circuit (LED diodes not shown)

A close up of the remee circuit (LED diodes not shown). The watch battery is on right. The microcontroller is surface-mount, meaning any attempt at piggy-backing something on top of it would be really hard. There are two switches

I checked reddit and see that people are excited about Remee and Zeo, Remee and EEG headband X. So I opened up my Remee and checked what’s inside. How upgradable it is? As an electrical engineering student, who has experience assembling electronics, I say:  looking inside the mask leaves a slim hope for upgrades this version.

The “flexible printed circuit board” that causes so much of a delay in production is glued on top of 2 pieces of regular circuit board, making it flex through the middle. There’s really no space for additional electronics, like a low power bluetooth module, and the 3.3 volt watch battery would not be able to support wireless data. I guess we get what we paid for.

While discussions about integration of Remee with other devices, like iWinks continue, I have not seen anything concrete come out of it.

 

 

While the circuit board might be "flexible", being mounted on two squares of regular PCB kinda defeats this point

While the circuit board might be “flexible”, it is glued on top of two regular PCB squares, making it behave like a regular PCB with a ribbon connection through the middle. 

 

Is there anything right about Remee?

You bet, the simple fact that a couple guys were able to

  • raise half a million dollars
  •  put a product on the market with public funding is good.
  • It’s good that they were able to develop a product that is wearable.

This shows that there’s an unfulfilled need for a lucid dreaming aid at affordable prices. It shows that Kickstarter projects can succeed given right marketing.

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