Sunday 15 April 2012

Control your nocturnal fictions? Dream on...

I tried it. The instructions say it may not work first time, and you might need a few nights for it to kick in. Is five nights enough? I've no idea, because the app — whatever it's actually supposed to do — doesn't do what it claims. Whether this is because the app is buggy, or because the developers and promoters are being less than honest about its purpose, I've no way to tell. But given that it's promoted by Professor Richard Wiseman, well known for conducting psycho-social mass experiments that aren't entirely what they seem, I feel justified in being a little bit suspicious.

The idea of controlling your dreams using a free iPhone app is a pretty cool one. Dream:ON is claimed to monitor your movements while you're asleep in order to assess what type of sleep you're having, and 20 minutes before the time you've already told it you want to wake up, it will play a "soundscape" at a volume low enough not to wake you but loud enough to influence your dreaming — assuming it has already verified that you are still in the type of sleep when dreaming takes place. It claims that if you begin to wake up during the playing of the soundscape it will lower the volume. An alarm will sound at your preset time and you can then type in some notes to describe your dream. You can also review your sleep pattern for that night.

Great idea — poor implementation. By which I mean, it doesn't work.

I tried it for five nights, and each morning I was awakened by the soundscape itself, and a minute later the alarm sounding, all 20 minutes before the preset time. The app seemed to successfully graph my movements, to show me how long it took me to fall asleep, and the times I was in light sleep as opposed to deep sleep during the night, though it appeared oblivious to the times I actually awoke and got out of bed. As for influencing my dreams — nope, it didn't.

Here's the video:

I quite like the idea of being an experimental subject for a project of this kind, but I'm less enamoured of being used as test subject for obviously buggy software. So I won't be using this app again, unless or until the bugs are ironed out.