Apple’s latest product releases are definitely exciting, but the gadget I’m most excited about is a new pair of sunglasses from Smith Optics called the Lowdown Focus Mpowered by Muse. These new shades (available in October) come with electroencephalogram (EEG) technology to track brain waves through five sensor points on the glasses—two behind the ears, one in each nose pad and one between your eyebrows.
Mark McCann, Eyewear Category Manager for Smith Optics, says they have “lots of integrating technologies in the works,” but for now the primary objective is on meditation and focus, especially for athletes. You’ll often hear of athletes getting “in the flow” or of runners saying their miles flew by effortlessly. For those of us who aren’t quite there, it may come down to upping our mental training game to match our physical training. And that means tapping into meditation.
The Lowdown Focus combines EEG readings with a meditation app (free with purchase of the glasses) to track how effectively you’re meditating. The app will track your progress with visual cues showing how long you were in a focused zone versus an active zone. Which means if you sit quietly for five, 10 or more minutes and while rehashing your day and call it meditation, the app will know. Crazy, right?
The app will have training sessions about meditation and mindfulness, and you’ll be able to earn points for completing sessions and then progress to other levels. If you’re sensing a gamification theme, you’re right. Much like Strava or other data-sharing platforms, you’ll be able to compare your focus to others using the program.
I tried the new technology at the Camelbak Pursuit Series in San Francisco. It was about as relaxing a scenario as I could hope for—outside, comfy seats, no wi-fi. The glasses—yes, they are fully functioning sunglasses—were comfortable, and I was ready to find Zen. Or so I thought. At the end of the test session, all of us in the group shared our data. The app gauges focus by delivering bird chirps as brain waves reach a certain level of focus, with the concept being as you get chirps, you want more, classic rewards based learning. In a two-minute test, I earned two birds. I was feeling pretty good about myself until I heard others in the group got 7, 9, 13 and a whopping 25 birds! Sure, some got none and there were plenty of ones and twos. But double digits? I have some work to do!
McCann said they tested the technology and meditation app with students at several European universities. After the 20-week test period, students were able to pay better attention in class and had improved test scores. Once you know how, getting in the zone or the flow is something you can apply on a run, training at the gym or on a work project.
And now, thanks to Smith’s Lowdown Focus ($349-$400, depending upon the lenses) it’s as easy as putting on some shades and relaxing.