Perhaps you’ve seen pictures of people lying in giant machines that record brain activity; or a man running on a treadmill with dozens of little wires attached to his muscles.
These devices are usually big, expensive, and operated by people that have been taught how to use them. That could be a thing of the past.
We can now record the same activity using much smaller, inexpensive and easy-to-use wearable technology.
You attach these wearable devices to your body in order to measure physiological activity–heart rate, body temperature, respiratory rate, muscle tension, and brain waves.
This is biofeedback. Having immediate feedback from your body can allow you to better understand and react to certain states.
Imagine seeing your brain activity in real-time, while meditating or while feeling stressed at work, and being able to adapt what you’re doing to get better results. Or being able to keep track of your heart rate and muscle tension during exercise, to keep an exact measure of how you’re improving.
The possibilities are endless, it’s putting our health and fitness in our own hands, where we can now see and interact with our body in new and exciting ways.
The Wearable EEG Meditation Headset
Biofeedback headsets measure your brain waves, using EEG. They’re small bands that sit easily on your head and measure activity through sensors.
EEG stands for Electroencephalography, but you’ll be forgiven for not remembering that. It measures voltage fluctuations from ionic current flows within the neurons of the brain.
The activity measured using EEG can be very detailed and complex, and dependent on the area of the brain, but a great place to start is the different levels of activity we can find:
- Delta Waves – (0.1 – 3.9 Hz) — When in a deep, dreamless sleep. Newborns sleep in this stage, adults less so.
- Theta Waves – (4 – 7.9 Hz) — Dreaming sleep (REM), this is the goal for meditation or self-hypnosis.
- Alpha Waves – (8 – 13.9 Hz) — Relaxed, daydreaming and watching TV.
- Beta Waves – (14 – 30 Hz) — The awake state. Engaged in activities and conversation.
- Gamma Waves – (31 Hz+) — Hyper alert, good for insights and higher learning.
Learn how to recognize these different brain wave states so you can identify different states of consciousness when you’re in meditation.
Discover the key differences between Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Theta, and Delta brainwave patterns and the relationship between brain waves and meditation in this overview video:
You can experience these different brainwave states through brainwave entrainment with 6 free iAwake Meditation audio tracks that you can listen to with your smartphone.
Brain science is complex stuff, but interesting and well worth investigating further, of course, that’s made all the more easy with the wearable headsets available today, so let’s examine them:
1. Muse: The Brain Sensing Headband
Meet Muse, an EEG headband that connects to your devices through Bluetooth.
Muse 2 was released in the fall of 2018 and their latest version called the Muse S was released in 2020 with additional features for tracking sleep, since it is much more comfortable to wear.
In addition to EEG tracking of your brainwaves, the Muse tracks both your heart rate and your breathing. Their iPhone and Android app is the best in class with lots of options to choose from for guided meditation experiences.
Muse launched first back in 2014 and it remains the most popular and highly-developed meditation technology for use at home available in 2021.
A Muse premium subscription costs $99/year ($11.99/month in the app). They are always adding new content and have a thriving community of brainwave hackers.
Additional third-party apps like Mind Monitor allow you to use the Muse to get live EEG brainwave data and there are also additional tools available for home-based neurofeedback.
✅ Muse helps you meditate with guided audio meditation sessions.
✅ Keeps track of each session so you can see how you improve along the way.
✅ It’s the most comfortable headband (especially the Muse S)
✅ By far the best app, guided meditations library and good third-party addons.
❌ It’s still a little clunky and needs to be wiped down on occasion to get a reliable connection.
❌ Some head movements such as yawning or sudden turning can loosen the sensors.
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2. Flowtime Biosensing Meditation Headband
Flowtime is a biosensing meditation headband that first came out in 2018. Modelled after the Muse Headband, it can also track heart rate, brainwaves and respiration.
It doesn’t feel as sturdy as the Muse 2 headband and its biggest limitations is the app offers much less functionality and guided meditations than Muse.
It’s largely a knock-off of the Muse device by a Chinese technology company that is sold for slightly cheaper than the Muse 2 (about $50 cheaper). It doesn’t have many users and it lacks the customer service and extensive guided meditations and brainwave training resources of the Muse.
They offer 3 months of free meditation training in the app then charge $69/year for the guided meditation trainings or you can buy monthly for $9.99/month.
✅ Slightly cheaper than the Muse Headband
❌ Largely a knockoff of the Muse made to look the same.
❌ Also a little clunky, sensors are finicky and needs to be wiped down on occasion
❌ Much less functionality, guided meditations and trainings in the app than Muse.
3. NeuroSky MindWave 2 Headset
Starting at $99 for the MindWave headset, or $129.99 for the bundle, this is your cheapest option.
The bundle includes a host of apps including the MyndPlay Brainwave Movie Player, which determines the edits of a movie based on your brainwave levels.
The MindWave Mobile 2 brainwave sensing headset has huge library of apps for using it for gaming, education and wellness.
Overall, the Muse is much more advanced in their technology and their app for iPhone And Android is much more user friendly and offers far better guided meditation training using the device.
✅ It’s by far the cheapest option.
✅ It comes with a big library of apps and programs to run with.
✅ You can pair it with the Puzzlebox Orbit, a brain-controlled helicopter.
❌ It’s uncomfortable, with 30 minutes use being enough to cause some people headaches.
❌ A long way off being a fashion accessory and lacks the nice user interface of other options.
4. The Versus Headset
If you want the Ferrari of personalized meditation headsets, then the Versus Headset may be the one for you. This is the most advanced of the wearable headsets currently available for personal use.
I had the opportunity to try out a demonstration headset recently and I was impressed with what the Versus can do, particularly for high performance athletes who want to use in their training.
When you get the Versus, you do a couple of hours of biofeedback diagnostics that set a baseline of your current cognitive abilities.
From there, you do what they call “performance brain training” by playing 5 different iPad gaming apps that sync up with the Versus headset so you can control the gameplay with your brain waves. This is measured by the Versus headset using its proprietary neuro/biofeedback technology.
✅ The best software for brain training specifically for athletes
✅ Most advanced home-based biofeedback headset for measuring your brain waves.
❌ You really need to dig the sensors into your scalp to get consistent brainwave readings.
❌ Versus is also the most expensive option.
The Future of Wearable Meditation Technology
It’s clear that we’re entering a new age of insight into ourselves, wearable technology and biofeedback are only going to continue to grow as new technology comes along.
Simply consider that while EEG has been around since the early 1900s, we’re at a point now where we can purchase our own devices, measure our brainwaves and adjust our lives more effectively to deal with stress and improve our focus.
Whatever your choice of meditation headset, make sure you take full advantage of it. Life is full of stress and anxiety these days, so learning about yourself and how to overcome those problems better is going to make a huge impact on your health and happiness.