Biohack Your Sleep with Electronic Mask, 'Napz'


Napz. Photo credit: V&A

As part of the Digital Futures UKMX, a series of maker events between the UK and Mexico, this last weekend saw Mexican artists and technologists come to London's V&A for the museum's Digital Design Weekend. A collaboration with the British Council, it was part of the London Design Festival and showcased design-led solutions to contemporary issues and problems.

Back in June, designers, artists, the public, and engineers undertook a 48 hour live-linked maker marathon between Dundee, named last year as the UK's first UNESCO City of Design, and Mexico City for a collaborative prototyping session. On the one hand you had Mexico City, a megacity of 22 million, and on the other you had Dundee, a Scottish city with only 149,000 residents. The ideas born from this juxtaposition in these heady two days were displayed at the V&A, where members of the public got to interact with them.

One of the prototypes on show was by Octavio A. Martinez García, a robotic engineer who works in the field of mechatronics at COCOLAB. Aimed at helping the sleep deprived get some restful shut-eye, his piece is an electronic sleep mask called Napz—for the wearer it not only helps with a good night's rest but helped induce a state of lucid dreams, too, a type of of sleep where you're able to control the actions in your dreams. The piece is made from infrared sensors, Neo Pixels, and the Arduino Lilypad.


Napz. Photo credit: Grace Quintella

"The prototype is an eye mask designed to measure REM, using LED lights to gently stimulate you and bring you to the border of consciousness and unconsciousness so you can begin to play with your dreams," explains García. "Today people get a lot less sleep, and of a much worse quality. Napz is a wearable device intended to schedule lucid dreams and thus produce actual rest and better patterns of REM sleep. Its interface allows the programming, design, and analysis of dreams. As everybody is different the device needs to be calibrated to each individual. The inspiration came from my own experience of lucid dreaming."

Another project to come out of the prototyping session was one that tackles the tricky issue of domestic violence using the medium of video games. Called Symmetron it's by Luis Castrejón, and it was designed to provoke reflections and discussions around the topic and move it from "the private space to the public space." Using a tablet, users deal with typical situations in the daily life of a couple and cover "core aspects in human relationships: gender violence, symmetry and asymmetry, and vital space."

"Games are a great tool to express feelings and emotions, notes Castrejón, an advocate of the power of games to explore social and personal issues. "Also the interaction gets you involved very easily, so this lets you use different topics in discussion, like ethics, productivity and even politics. The main benefit is that games are a medium naturally understood by young people, [and] have a more honest and intimate approach. So the message is more effective and the feedback more precise. Games are not just entertainment—the whole thing is about emotions and I must say fun and that is the tricky part, fun can be defined as a bundle of emotions driven by curiosity and surprise."


Photo credit: Grace Quintella


Photo credit: Grace Quintella

Click here to learn more about Digital Futures UKMX. 

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