Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Can this brain-sensing headband give you serenity?

Meet Ariel Garten: 35-year-old CEO of tech company InteraXon. The business has created a headband which monitors brain activity, called 'Muse.' It claims to help reduce stress as the user focuses on their brain waves, which appear on a screen. Meet Ariel Garten: 35-year-old CEO of tech company InteraXon. The business has created a headband which monitors brain activity, called 'Muse.' It claims to help reduce stress as the user focuses on their brain waves, which appear on a screen.
HIDE CAPTION
Mind games
Drink it in
Chairwoman
Music to the ears
Light show
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ariel Garten's high-tech headband monitors brain activity
  • Called 'Muse,' the device transmits information to your computer
  • Can pour beer, control music volume, turn on lights just by thinking
  • By tracking brain waves, could help users reduce stress

Editor's note: Leading Women connects you to extraordinary women of our time -- remarkable professionals who have made it to the top in all areas of business, the arts, sport, culture, science and more.

(CNN) -- Imagine a gadget that knows your mind better than you do.

Picture a device that can rank the activities in your life that bring you joy, or interject your typed words with your feelings.

One woman has helped create just that.

Ariel Garten believes that the brain -- with its 100 billion neurons that receive, register, and respond to thoughts and impulses -- has the power to accomplish almost anything, if only its power could be properly harnessed.

Can a headband read your mind?

Her company InteraXon, which she co-founded with Trevor Coleman, has produced Muse, a lightweight headband that uses electroencephalography (EEG) sensors to monitor your brain activity, transmitting that information to a smartphone, laptop or tablet.

The high-tech headband has been used to pour beer, levitate chairs, or control the lights -- all without the wearer lifting a finger.

And in a world where technology is often blamed for raising stress levels, 35-year-old Garten believes her $300 headband could even help calm us down.

The Canadian -- who has worked as a fashion designer, art gallery director, and psychotherapist -- spoke to CNN about her influences and vision for the future of technology.

CNN: How does Muse help reduce stress?

Ariel Garten: Muse tracks your brain activity. Your brain sends electro-signals just like your heart does, and this headband is like a heart rate monitor.

As it tracks your brain activity, it sends that information to your computer, smartphone or tablet, where you can do exercises that track your brain activity in real time, and give you real time feedback to teach you how to calm and settle your mind.

The headband allows the wearer to see their brain activity when connected to a smartphone, tablet or laptop.
Courtesy Interaxon

CNN: Technology is often blamed for making people stressed -- is there a certain irony in also using it to also calm us down?

AG: Technology can definitely be responsible for making people stressed because it pulls at our attention, it distracts us, it increases the number of demands and in some ways decreases our own agency.

We're very interested in inverting that on its head and creating solutions that help you calm yourself; that can help you stay grounded, choose what to focus your attention on, and manage your own mind and your response to the world.

Technology itself is not the evil, it's the way that it's implemented.
Ariel Garten, CEO, InteraXon

Technology itself is not the evil, it's the way that it's implemented. Technology can have some great solutions for us. Look at all the amazing medical interventions that we have.

CNN: You've suggested Muse could provide medical benefits for children with ADD -- how?

AG: To be clear, Muse is not a medical device, it's a computer product. Exercises using Muse have suggested that they can help people with ADHD, by helping you increase your state of focused attention.

We've had amazing emails -- just recently we had an email from somebody who is 29 years old with ADHD and after just two days of using Muse had noticed a benefit. Three weeks out they sent me an email saying 'this is not a game changer, this is a life changer.'

The muse headset up close.
Courtesy Interaxon

CNN: Have you had interest in the product from any unexpected places?

AG: We've been contacted by a lot of sports stars and sports celebrities -- people wanting to use it to improve their sports game. We were surprised because we're so used to thinking of it as a cognitive tool.

We can't read your thoughts, we can't read your mind
Ariel Garten, CEO InteraXon

There's been quite a number of research labs using Muse, and they've been looking at applications in depression, epilepsy, and communications.

And then we've also had a lot of interest from companies interested in integrating our technology into their wellness and development programs. Companies like Google wanting to offer this to their employees to help improve their productivity and their wellness.

CNN: Do you have any reservations about the development of mind-mapping devices?

AG: In InteraXon we believe very strongly that you own all your own data. We have a very strict privacy policy. It's like a heart rate monitor, it's very binary so we can't read your thoughts, we can't read your mind. But we're very much into leading the way on the very responsible use of this technology.

Ariel Garten speaks at the What's Next panel at Engadget Expand.
Courtesy Steve Jennings/Getty Images for Engadget

CNN: What inspired you to get involved in this area?

AG: My background is in neuroscience, design and psychotherapy, and I'm very interested in helping people understand their own minds and use their minds more productively in their own life. Our brains get in our way in so many ways.

The things that we think, the feelings that we have, all of these things can be beautiful supports to our life and encourage the lives that we live. But they can also cause all kinds of anxiety, worries, all of these things that hold us back.

As women, we are so good at holding ourselves back with the thoughts that are in our heads.
Ariel Garten, CEO, InteraXon

Particularly women are a huge inspiration to me because we're so good at holding ourselves back with the thoughts that are in our heads. We're constantly worried about things like 'does this person think this way about me?' or 'have I done well enough?' or 'have I achieved as much as I'm supposed to?'

We have these dialogues within ourselves that can be really debilitating, and you know the answer is 'of course you're good enough,' and 'of course you've done well enough,' and 'of course you can achieve that.' And if you can learn to understand and gain control over your own internal dialogue, you can really learn to sort of undo the shackles that hold you back in your daily life, and your career, and your relationships.

Read: Bobbi Brown's billion dollar idea

Inspire: Nanny's double life as photographer

Learn: Frida Kahlo: Queen of the selfie

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:07 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
In 2006 she sold her business to Estée Lauder in a reported multi-million dollar deal, five years later she started a brand new company.
updated 6:14 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Some of the greatest scientific breakthroughs have come from women, though like so many inventors their names are lost in the pages of history.
updated 8:02 AM EDT, Fri October 10, 2014
Leading Women hosted a Twitter Chat celebrating girls in science with guests including race car drivers, software developers and coders.
updated 5:36 AM EDT, Thu October 2, 2014
There's a fine science to running a billion dollar company. Rosalind Brewer should know -- she used to study chemistry.
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Thu October 9, 2014
Join our twitter chat @CNNIwomen on October 9 at 5pm GMT/12pm EST and look for #CNNwomen #IDG14.
updated 1:34 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
STEM experts from Marissa Mayer to Weili Dai share their thoughts to celebrate International Day of the Girl.
updated 6:32 AM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
When it comes to buildings, they don't come much different than a mosque and a nightclub.
updated 9:20 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen -- or so the saying goes.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
These 12 fashion experts have millions of followers, but who is the most social woman in fashion?
updated 11:07 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Mindy Grossman has been the driving force behind making the Home Shopping Network both hip and profitable, but she still makes time for herself.
updated 9:18 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Nelly Ben Hayoun speaking at NASA Ames research center
Nelly Ben Hayoun is on a mission to convince the world to take threats such as asteroid strikes more seriously.
updated 10:33 PM EDT, Sun August 24, 2014
Shenan Chuang turned Ogilvy China into the world's third biggest ad agency, CNN's Kristie Lu Stout asks how she did it.
ADVERTISEMENT