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Muse pairs with smartphones to de-stress as wearables market expands

Developers continue to find new ways to integrate mobile and wearables, such as the Muse headband that hooks up with a smartphone or tablet application to provide calming interactive exercises meant to relax users. 

Canadian technology developer Interaxon says Muse provides feedback almost instantly, with the app alerting consumers if they are using it correctly, aiming to keep them. Offering a new tool into the industry of wearables, Muse?s strategy is on the right track, but industry experts wonder if it will have the sustainability to compete with giants, such as Apple.

?People are time poor right now,? said Tracy Chong, executive vice president of marketing at Interaxon, Inc., Toronto. ?Destressing techniques take such a long time, so we designed the app to be as short as three minutes to take consumers into a de-stressed state.

?We think consumers will invest in this because it doesn?t require a lot of time.?

Timesaving technology
Developers are encouraging users to try the device-and-app combo, which is connected via Bluetooth technology, while in a quiet place in a sedentary position as the wearable headband tracks brain activity using its seven finely calibrated EEG sensors.

Interaxon initiators completed a series of tests to determine audio feedback would be the most successful option and trained the app to register from body queues.  

If users are cooperating and completing the exercises correctly, the app provides feedback with soothing sounds, such as rolling waves, nature sounds and chirping birds. To alert users when they are not focusing correctly, the app releases sounds of storms and rushing waves.

These sounds are a direct reflection of the user?s brain activity, so once the user figures out how the tool works, they can more effectively benefit from the exercises.

The wearable was designed to not only fit comfortably but to also be pleasing to the human eye, and developers made the product to be used practically anywhere, whether it be in home or office as long as the area is quiet and not distracting.

The Muse headband has five forehead sensors, five LED lights used as power and connect alerts, rubber ear sensors for comfortable wear and adjustability on each side for fitting purposes.

Here comes Apple?
Apple?s wearable rumors have caused a ruckus of gossip amidst the release of similar wearable products from smaller entities, and once the giant makes a move, it could mean a huge loss for teams like Interaxon.  

?What?s interesting about this wearable industry is how many analysts are saying they?re waiting for Apple to truly disrupt this industry,? said Tony Vlismas, head of marketing strategy at Polar, Toronto. ?So as successful as Muse might be, the good product reviews or press might be worthless if Apple?s new wearable or something new from UnderArmour or even Google really changes the paradigm of this market. 

?I?m not sure how the company will tackle things like battery issues, or truly putting a medical spin on things. It?s easy to say the app does so-and-so, but consumers are smarter and will want proof. 

?I think its success also hinders on its support for Apple?s new iOS Health and Google?s new Fit for Android, which undoubtedly consumers will want all their wearables to support.?

However, the product is innovative by combining a sector of health involving brain activity with a wearable. 

?The challenge with all these apps and other web-based guidance programs is that there are so many of them that it?s difficult to stand out or do something new,? he said. ?What I admire about Muse, whether it works or not, is that they?ve added a physical element: the headband. 

?It gives users something to touch, tactile, something to truly own. Similar to Jawbone?s Up or the FitBit products, it gives consumers a sense of something more real than just a 99-cent app. 

?It?s an investment so a consumer might make more use of it.?

Mr. Vlismas is not affiliated with Interaxon but agreed to comment as an industry expert.

However, the Muse product will ultimately have to speak for itself in order to thrive.

?We all hear about the inanimate sensors that tie basketballs and dishwashers to the smart data manages such as phones and tablets,? said Gary Schwartz, president and CEO at ImpactMobile, New York. ?However, there are more than 200 affordable external wellness sensors that can connect to devices. 

?Products like Muse are IOT devices that tie to human heuristics from wrist-wearables like Fuel to ankle-sensors like SensibleBaby. With Apple, Samsung, Google all vying for the IOT heath market, look for a proliferation of innovation in the coming year.?

Mr. Schwartz is not affiliated with Interaxon but agreed to comment as an industry expert.

Mobile opportunities
As wearables gain momentum, developers are recognizing the need for fashionable appeal, leading to partnerships between technology companies and fashion brands.

A less appealing tech wearable suddenly becomes desirable after a well-known designer lends a magical touch. While some consumers are more focused on the technology, appearance means more to average consumers, and they will not adopt a wearable if it could wreck their style (see story).

A fashionable appeal is on the radar for Interaxon?s developers but they also are keeping the technological capabilities of the product as a top priority during its initial release.

?We wanted to make sure our first passion, which is the wearable itself, did not compromise the integrity of the data, but incorporating fashion into our product could come next,? Ms. Chong said.

Final Take
Caitlyn Bohannon, editorial assistant for Mobile Marketer, New York