Lucid Dream Startup Says You Can Work in Your Sleep

Prophetic says its Halo device can ‘stabilise and induce lucid dreaming' (Prophetic)

We spend approximately one-third of our lives sleeping. However, in the digital age, the relentless pursuit of productivity sometimes blurs or even erases the boundary between work and rest. A startup named Prophetic proposes an innovative approach to counteract the “lack of activity” during rest: utilizing sleep hours for productive activities by inducing lucid dreams.

The device facilitating this feat, previously introduced in a prior article, is called Halo. It promises to induce lucid dreams, providing the opportunity to work, learn, or create during sleep. This concept, at the intersection of neurotechnology and well-being, as explained by Eric Wollberg, founder and CEO of Prophetic, in a Fortune article, raises questions about both its effectiveness and ethical implications.

Founded in 2023, Prophetic aims to redefine our very definition of sleep with Halo. This headband, designed to be worn during sleep, aims to induce a state where the individual is fully aware that they are dreaming. Up to 70% of people experience this phenomenon, known as lucid dreaming, at least once in their lives. However, only a minority can regularly induce and control such dreams. This awareness in the dream allows potential control of dream events, enabling active interaction with dream content.

Halo is the result of a collaboration with Afshin Mehin, known for his work on Neuralink N1. It employs advanced technology combining ultrasound and machine learning algorithms. These algorithms are designed to detect rapid eye movement (REM) sleep phases, the period when dreams are most vivid, and stabilize these phases to facilitate the induction of lucid dreams. The product is based on ongoing research at the Donders Institute in the Netherlands.

The commercial launch of Halo is scheduled for 2025, with an estimated retail price between $1,500 and $2,000. Early interest in the product is evident, as seen in preorders already totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. This market response indicates significant curiosity and enthusiasm for the possibilities offered by Halo. However, despite this commercial interest, the concept raises questions.

Technical and Ethical Challenges

Experts question whether transcranial ultrasound (TUS), the technology behind the Halo, actually works to induce lucid dreams. Although innovative, TUS has not yet proven itself in the realm of consciously manipulating dreams. Furthermore, even among individuals with experience in lucid dreaming, consistent and regular control of dream content remains a challenge. Experienced dreamers often report difficulties maintaining lucidity or manipulating their dreams meaningfully. These observations highlight the potential limitations of the Halo technology and the complexity of interacting with natural sleep processes.

Beyond technical aspects, Prophetic’s Halo also raises significant ethical questions. By proposing to transform sleep hours, traditionally dedicated to rest and recovery, into periods of productivity, the device challenges the balance between work and rest. This intrusion into sleep could have implications for the mental health and overall well-being of users.

Sleep is a vital biological function, and its disruption or exploitation for productivity raises concerns about long-term effects on sleep quality, stress, and fatigue. Additionally, this technology could exacerbate societal pressures regarding productivity, further blurring the already fragile boundary between professional and personal life. These ethical concerns require thoughtful consideration of how such technologies should be integrated into our lives, ensuring the preservation of balance and individuals’ mental health.

Toward a Future of Productive Sleep?

Despite the challenges it faces, the Halo holds considerable potential that could transform how we perceive and use sleep. By enabling users to control their lucid dreams, the Halo opens unprecedented possibilities for productivity. Imagine being able to work on complex projects, rehearse important presentations, or even develop new skills while you sleep.

For professionals such as engineers, architects, business leaders, and artists, who often require hours of concentration and creativity, this technology could be particularly beneficial. Prophetic plans to provide additional data in 2024 and launch the Halo in 2025. If the promises materialize, this technology will need to overcome scientific and ethical skepticism to establish itself as a revolution in our daily lives.