Muse 2, the brain-reading device that helps you relax, gets an in-depth evaluation here

Muse 2

8.3

DESIGN

8.0/10

EASE OF USE

8.5/10

APPLICATION OF THE INFORMATION

8.0/10

MOTIVATION

8.5/10

PROS

  • Lightweight and simple in its operation
  • Biofeedback that is free from bias
  • Now monitors your level of activity as well as your heart rate and respiration to help you concentrate.
  • App maintains tabs on progress

CONS

  • Pricey
  • It’s possible that not everyone will like it.
  • It would be helpful to have more raw statistics.

It is wonderful that modern technology connects us, but it also means that we are accessible at any time of day or night. It should go without saying that this makes it tough to turn off. It is also possible that it will increase the pressure to act more quickly than what was previously considered acceptable.

On the other hand, this technique can also be applied to the fight against high levels of stress. Not only will this make you feel better in the here and now, but it also has the potential to preserve your health in the long run. There is a good reason why stress is referred to as the “silent killer.”

One option available is to utilize a mobile application on a smartphone. There are literally hundreds of them available all across the world that are intended for quiet reflection. The majority of fitness trackers and smartwatches now come equipped with built-in capabilities that can help relieve tension. The Apple Watch, Fitbits, and Garmin sports watches, for instance, all come equipped with their own unique breathing workouts. It’s no longer sufficient to just keep track of your steps and calories.

However, there is a possibility that there is a method that is even more effective. A growing number of electronic devices are being developed with the sole purpose of facilitating meditation. These devices, which are referred to as biofeedback headsets, often make use of advanced technology in order to measure your brainwaves.

One of these tools is called Muse. It does this by placing EEG sensors around the scalp, which allows it to detect any changes. The latest version of this product not only tracks your brain activity but also your heart rate. It also has a gyroscope and an accelerometer so it can track your movements and know when you take a breath.

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been working with Adobe Muse 2. Did it contribute to my efforts to achieve a more peaceful state of mind? Continue reading to find out.

Design

We have all come up with a number of strategies to deal with the stress that is all around us, some of which are beneficial, while others are not so helpful. The purpose of the app is to guide you through the fundamentals of meditation, encourage you to maintain your practice, and keep you apprised of your development over the course of your time using it.

In 2014 we marked the debut of the first generation of a product that had been the subject of research for more than a decade. In 2016 we saw the release of a revised version of the first edition of the game. InteraXon, based in Toronto, followed this up with a redesigned version that they referred to as Muse 2, despite the fact that the name is very ambiguous.

The gizmo comprises a headband that may establish a wireless connection to a user’s mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet. But instead of resting on the crown of your head, the muse is worn on the center of your forehead and is secured behind your ears in a manner that is analogous to how spectacles are worn. A single button can be seen on the right side of the device, and a white LED indicator can be seen when the button is pressed.

The most recent model is more streamlined and has a lower profile than the ones that came before it. Additionally, the surface has a softer feel to it. In addition, brand-new sensors are included, as was previously indicated.

The headband weighs only 40 grams, making it extremely lightweight due to its low weight. When putting something on, it is essential to ensure that it fits properly. By drawing in or pushing out on the slidable ends, the grasp can be adjusted to be either tighter or looser. This is significant because in order for Muse to get a correct reading, it needs to have adequate contact with your skin.

If the sensors are not set up correctly, the mobile application that comes with the watch will alert you and ask you to make the necessary adjustments. Before beginning a session, it requires three seconds of a signal of sufficient quality. In all honesty, I did not find this to be too much of a problem, and the program would only prompt me to make adjustments on a sporadic basis. The second time around, it would never experience anything but joy.

The Muse, in all of its incarnations, is intended to provide you with a window into the patterns of activity generated by your brain. They do it in a manner analogous to that of a cardiac monitor in which they measure electrical impulses. Whether you are awake, asleep, or engaged in conversation, your brain is always producing some sort of sound. This is something that Muse catches up on and relays to you so that you are aware of what is going on in your thoughts.

The Muse 2 goes beyond its predecessors in that it also offers real-time feedback from the user’s heart, breath, and body. This presents your meditation practice in a more comprehensive light and suggests additional options for you to hone your skills in this area.

On board the gadget are several different types of sensors. This provides a reading of your mental state using the five EEG sensors that are located along the front strip. Next to them is a PPG sensor, which is placed on your forehead and monitors both your heart rate and your blood flow. Lastly, the accelerometer and gyroscope are on the sides of the device. They can track how you move your body and how you breathe.

The device has a sleek appearance and feels safe once it is in place. It is constructed primarily of flexible plastic, with some components made of metal. Having said that, it does have a brittle quality to it, and I’m not entirely certain that it would hold up if I were to mistakenly stomp on it.

Despite the fact that it is seen above, it is not an article of clothing that I would feel comfortable wearing in public. It shouldn’t be an issue because the majority of meditators do their practice in the privacy of their own homes, away from onlookers who might be intrigued by the headband. However, Muse is extremely portable and even comes with a carrying bag that you can purchase separately. It is excellent for traveling and vacations.

Additionally, the life of the battery is satisfactory. The battery life of the Muse 2 can last for up to 5 hours between charges. The remaining battery life may be seen in the light bar located on the right ear. I usually meditate for up to a half an hour each day, so I didn’t need to charge my phone more frequently than once every 10 days.

Simply insert one end of the charging cord into a USB port, and then plug the other end of the cable into Muse to restore its power. The time it takes to go from empty to full is anywhere between two and three hours. When you see the lights moving back and forth in a wave pattern, it will indicate that your Muse is fully charged (while still plugged in).

How to set up your connection and begin your first session in Muse

Downloading the Android or iOS software and installing it on your mobile device is the first step toward using Muse. The app may be downloaded from the respective app stores. During the process of creating your account, you will be asked a few initialization questions. It is possible for multiple people to utilize the same instance of Muse by establishing separate accounts using their own unique email addresses.

Just like it is with most other rechargeable electronic devices, before using your Muse for the first time, it is necessary to make sure that it has been fully charged. In addition to this, you will need to use the accompanying app to link it with your mobile device. After that, the connection between the headset and the app should be established automatically anytime you launch the app.

In most cases, I came to the conclusion that this was the case. On extremely rare occasions, Muse would not connect the first time I tried to use it, requiring me to turn it on and off a second time. Because it happened so infrequently, it was not anything that bothered me.

After turning on Muse and securing it around your head for the first time, you can begin the first session. Launch the application and wait for it to pair. After that, you’ll be brought to a screen titled “Meditate.” At this point, you’ll be able to select the kind of session you want to have. There are several types of meditation available to select from, including Mind Meditation, Heart Meditation, Body Meditation, Breath Meditation, and a Timer.

Additionally, this is where you will select the duration of your meditation as well as the soundscape that will accompany it. You can choose to download one that is themed after a beach, a rainforest, a desert, a city park, or any of a number of other environments. While you are practicing meditation, you will be able to pick up on these sounds in the background.

All meditations, with the exception of the Timer, include exercises. These are designed to assist you in improving specific aspects of your practice so that you can do it more effectively.

The earlier classes focus on developing an awareness of what your body is doing, while the later sessions expand upon this foundation. These are selected for you as you make progress, but you are free to repeat any exercise at any time or choose not to get instructions at all. Muse will remember your selection, and when you play again, she will start from the point where you last left off. Users also have the option to download a variety of different classes sourced from outside parties.

The following stage is the calibration process. The application will verify that all of the different sensors on Muse are set up in the correct orientation. A guide is provided in the form of a pie chart, and inside it is a portion that is specific to each sensor. When each of the various sensors establishes a signal of sufficient quality, the slices of the pie begin to fill up. This shouldn’t take more than twenty to thirty seconds, depending on the kind of session you’re having. You will need to maintain a seated, contemplative posture during this exercise, just as if you were meditating.

It is important to point out that there is an audio explainer available that will walk you through the entire process. After you have finished the calibration, she will talk to you about the exercise that will be part of the session (if there is one), as well as what you need to do in order to become proficient in it. After that, you are able to move on to meditation. After that, a timer will pop up on the screen and begin a countdown, at which point it will let you know that you are finished.

After a few weeks, I found that it was more convenient for me to skip the voice and the exercises and get straight to the main event. On occasion, I would also lower the volume on my smartphone so that I would not be able to hear the surrounding environment. By this method, I was able to gauge how well I’ve been doing by simulating the experience of meditating without a headset.

Different approaches to meditation

In addition to its more streamlined appearance and improved wearability, the most compelling advantage of the Muse 2 over its predecessors is the expansion of its sensor capabilities. They grant Muse the ability to assess various vitals, such as the pace of the heart and breath. The sensors that are utilized differ according to the type of meditation session that you have selected.

A mind meditation uses the data provided by all five EEG sensors in order to determine the current state of your mind. If you select the rainforest soundscape, for instance, you’ll hear the sound of heavy rain when your mind begins to wander, and you’ll hear the sound of light rain while you’re trying to settle your mind down. At the conclusion, you will be given feedback on how successful you have been thus far.

Muse can detect all five bands of brainwave activity, which are referred to as delta, theta, alpha, and beta waves, respectively. During meditation, the majority of brain waves that are produced are alpha waves.

I got the impression that Muse was a really sensitive person. The modifications would instantly be mirrored through sounds, which was a fairly remarkable thing to behold, to be honest. It also opened my eyes to how simple it is to become distracted by things around you. Most individuals will probably find it challenging to become proficient in this particular style of meditation. My score was all over the place, and it was highly dependent on my level of composure heading into the test.

The practice of heart meditation, which monitors your heart rate, lives up to its name. It includes activities such as “Slowing Down” and “Influencing Your Heart,” amongst others. The beating of a drum can be used to signify either an accelerating or slowing of your pulse. You will normally be awarded the same number of points each time you complete the challenge, despite the fact that the app will indicate, in percentage points, how far over or below your average heart rate you were during the challenge.

The purpose of practicing body meditation is to instruct you on how to maintain complete stillness throughout the meditation process while also maintaining a calm body posture. The measurements from the built-in accelerometer are used to generate the sound of wind chimes, which reflect the subtleties of your movements.

Lessons on breath meditation are designed to teach you when to breathe in and when to breathe out in order to create a more relaxed state of mind. When you inhale, there is background noise and a voice that guides you through the process. When you exhale, there is a whooshing sound. There are now only two exercises available, but more will be added in the near future. At the conclusion of the session, you will be provided with a percent evaluation indicating the degree to which you were in sync with the breathing guide.

The final category of a session is a straightforward timer. This is for times when you don’t care about lessons or scores and just want a countdown timer to keep track of how much time is left.

In general, I’ve found that it’s not too difficult to get the hang of most different kinds of meditation. By a wide margin, the meditation on the mind was by far the most challenging, followed by the meditation on the breath. When compared to the other five groups’ findings, theirs were the most detailed in terms of rating. Although you are presented with a complete graph of the session, other meditations will often offer you a predetermined score at the end of the session.

Unfortunately, Muse has not yet created a system that utilizes all of the sensors at the same time in order to present you with a total score. It may be fun to host a competition in which you can earn points for your head, your heart, and your body. There is a possibility that this is an idea for something that could be implemented through a software update.

Commentary and new features

The software might be described as an uncomplicated endeavor. A dashboard that displays a chart of your past meditation sessions is available to you. Should you choose to click on it, it will transform into a comprehensive chronology. After that, you will be able to see the statistics for each individual session.

A running tally of all of your meditations is displayed on the primary screen as well. If you scroll all the way down, you will see the weekly goals and challenges you have accepted, as well as the most recent achievements you have reached. Each one of these things is vivid, full of color, and very simple to recognize.

Each meditation is given a score that consists of Muse Points, Recoveries, and Birds, in addition to a graph that displays the session’s data. Every second that you spend in contemplative thought earns you one muse point. The more time you spend in meditation, the more points you will receive. The amount of work that you put into noticing and recovering from your distractions is represented by recoveries. This improves your ability to concentrate and focus. Lastly, if you see birds, it means that you’ve been experiencing extended periods of peace. It is in your best interest to amass as many of these as you possibly can.

Depending on the kind of session, there are a variety of other statistics to consider. For instance, Mind Meditation tracks the amount of time spent in each of three mental states: active, neutral, and quiet. Your level of coherence with the guide’s breathing will be revealed via the Breath Meditation.

This is all well and good, but to be honest, it comes off as a little too “New Agey” for my taste. When it comes to simplifying the analysis, I can’t help but get the impression that perhaps Muse is trying to do too much of it.

Instead of some of these measures, I would have preferred to have my hands on the raw data. Therefore, a value for your heart rate rather than a percentage indicating how much you departed from your average, or a summary of your real Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta, and Gamma brainwave activity. Those who are more experienced in the practice of meditation would benefit greatly from this as well. You can obtain this raw data by subscribing to a service called Muse Direct, which costs money but will provide you with access to the app’s features.

Having said that, the free app does a respectable job of giving you a picture of your activities as well as an insight into how well you’ve been doing overall. If you meditate on a daily basis, you will find that everything is documented and quantified for you.

The final decision

A heart rate monitor, an accelerometer, and a gyroscope are added to the Muse 2 headset in addition to the brain monitor. These sensors track your movement and your breathing in addition to your brain activity. Because of this, the device is significantly more advanced than its predecessors. You will now have access to a more comprehensive overview of your sessions thanks to this update.

I discovered that meditating with Muse 2 made the experience more engaging. The instantaneous reflection of changes in either my mind or my body’s physical state in the form of sounds was a pretty remarkable phenomenon to behold. It also opened my eyes to how simple it is to become distracted by things around you.

During the few weeks we spent testing Muse 2, it gave me the motivation I needed to make sure I set aside time every day for quiet thought.All of the sensors performed as expected, and the application did a decent job of calculating how far I’ve come over the course of time.

Having said that, I was hoping the app would include a greater amount of analysis in addition to the basic data. You can see and capture raw data using specialized software that can be downloaded separately. However, there is a cost associated with this.

In addition to providing me with direction and instruction, the headband also taught me a thing or two about how to improve my performance in practice. In addition, InteraXon is supported by a body of scientific research conducted by a third party that demonstrates its efficacy. One such study comes from the University of Milan.

If you are seeking a biofeedback meditation headset, the Muse 2 is currently the best option on the market. It’s possible that some people won’t find it useful, but if you have the means to do so and want to increase the amount of time you spend meditating as well as your level of concentration, the device can most surely be of assistance.

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