„Fire, flash, fling, flower, fun, fast, flex, floor, fish, find, focus...“ Amol Sarva is playing a recording of his results in a verbal intelligence test. With Halo, the entrepreneur and science punk is creating a helmet crafted to enhance performance by electromagnetic stimulation. His experiments indicate a strong positive effect. We sat down and chatted about the wearable device (December, New York).
Halo promises to be wearable doping without side-effects. Marvellous! Can you walk us through the fundamental technology?
For twenty years, there has been increasing use of invasive techniques. My co-founder spent the last 12 years in this area with his company „Neuropace“. Essentially, they make a pacemaker for your brain. It detects the condition of your brain. If you are having an epilepsy it can intervene and fix the condition! With Halo, it’s the opposite of invasive. The helmet contains an electromagnetic field. In medicine, they call it neuromodulation. Generally, we are about to stand on the shoulders of the technological generation that started 10 years ago with the iPod, and is now the smartphone and all that, and build gadgets for healthcare.
Is this where you see next level wearables are going?
Yeah, absolutely. Today, wearables are devices with sensors that gather data and have output. I think what’s more powerful is the opposite direction. Feeding the body.
You did a prototype and tested it on yourself?
Yes. The first time I stuck the first HALO Prototype on my head two things happened. First thing: I completely blinded myself. I saw a massive bright light and was scared shitless. The second thing that happened is: I survived and was completely fine. Nothing really happened. Then I started to play around with experiments: I drew, I tried to memorize numbers, I played games. My performance with Halo always beat my usual scores. For instance I played the only game I had on my iPhone. With stimulation I got five highscores in a row. Crushing my iPhone score, I saw the effect for the first time. From there, we’ve been building something based on real science, real trials…
And there’s still a significant effect after taking the placebo effect and the learning curve, into account?
Yeah, after the crazy first experiment, we learnt more about biology and technology and wanted it to be safer, not shooting anything into our vision system and optic nerves again. We chose more rigorous trials from cognitive psychology. We recruited a group of people that were healthy and wanted to try it, trained them on the task first, divided them into groups secretly and gave some people real stuff and some people fake stuff. The guys who got real stimulation were much better.
Still, the development sounds more like wild style instead of common laboratory practice? Think of the Royal Academy of Science or Galiani and Volta in Italy; this is exactly how they discovered stuff.
..Marie Curie killed herself..
And got two Noble Prizes. We are bringing the entrepreneur and technology culture to the body and medicine. And hope to unbottle technologies that have been in medicine for many years but their benefits haven’t been fully unlocked. The video games are a silly example. If you had a stroke and couldn’t walk, Halo could help you relearn that. There is some very preliminary data about it, but think of brain damages from an accident, Alzheimer, Parkinson. There’s so many problems we should be working on. So, yes, we brought punk to the laboratory in a sense that we are introducing a different mind-set.
There are many fields of application, from medical purposes to car racing, where would you like to start?
The potential of the technology is massive. The idea that you can boost your performance with wearable technology instead of exercise or meditation is huge. It essentially impacts everything we do as people. We use our minds to do stuff. So where’s the limit? The best minds work on the worst problems: cancer, climate.. Imagine they could do these things even better. These extraordinary prospects are exciting!
This made you become Dr. Frankenstein?
(laughs) I did a PhD at Stanford in cognitive science. While I was doing this work I was hearing about crazy things. At the time it was even more marginal. I had heard about someone, nobody believed him, they thought he was an idiot… But something that promises to make your mind work better is simply seductive. After I sold my last company last year, I started to remember the most amazing things I have ever been involved in. Halo made it to the top of my list. Also, when I started to research, I realised there hasn’t been much progress in the area, people still don’t believe in it. Then I built my prototype and once I saw this light flashing I knew this was something really magic!
Amol Sarva will speak at the upcoming DLD14, taking place in Munich January 19 - 21, 2014. Apply for a ticket to this exclusive conference, tune in on the beat of our community on the DLDpulse and find regular updates on the DLD14 programme and speakers here.