The wearables market is dominated almost exclusively by devices designed to collect information. Fitness trackers log heartbeats, movement, temperature, and other metrics which are then analyzed by apps and presented back to the wearer as digestible information. The model works, and the fitness tracker market alone is set to top $5 billion by 2019, according to Wareable.com. How large, then, would a market be for a wearable able to not simply track performance, but enhance it?
In what seems like something lifted straight from a science fiction movie, Halo Neuroscience has developed a headset that stimulates the brain and promises to improve athlete performance. The company has been developing the headset since its inception in 2013, and its Halo Sport model represents a move into the consumer market. Co-founder and CEO Daniel Chao described the company as ‘probably more research institute than startup’ in its early years, but it’s now looking to bring its quite unbelievable technology to market.
The headset, which looks indistinguishable from a pair of wireless over-ear headphones, sends electrical stimulation into the brain’s motor cortex. According to the company, the ‘Neuropriming technology puts the brain's motor cortex in a temporary state of hyper-learning that lasts for an hour. During this time, feeding your brain quality athletic training repetitions results in this information being more fully incorporated into your brain. Essentially, Halo makes practice more productive for the brain.’
In May, TechCrunch reported that the technology has, up until now, been ‘focused on specific medical use-cases up to now, rather than being applied as a wider consumer proposition.’ Now, the company wants to help everyone ‘unlock their true potential.’ The language may read hyperbolically, but case studies proudly displayed on the company website suggest there’s data to back up the lofty buzzphrases. If customers can part with the $699 retail price,
Michael Johnson Performance reported that when Halo Sport was paired with training, athletes saw a 12% gain in lower body strength in just two weeks. Similarly, the United States Ski & Snowboard Association found that after four weeks athletes’ propulsive force had jumped by 13% and jump smoothness had seen an 11% rise over a control subject. The company claims that the headset enables ‘stronger and more coordinated signals between the brain and muscles, enhancing strength, skill, and speed.’ It also claims that the US Military accelerated pilot and sniper training by 50% using neurotechnology. If the claims stand up to scrutiny in the consumer market as it appears they have in the professional sphere, the product could change the way we think about wearable devices and their limitations.
As in the world of professional sports, the world of personal fitness is one of marginal gains. If Halo Sport users finds their improvement assisted by a relatively noninvasive - albeit expensive - wearable, there’s no reason the technology shouldn’t go mainstream. The company claims it can ‘reproducibly’ show that skill acquisition and learning is ‘about two times’ better with their device than without it - ‘neuropriming technology’ may sound like something from Total Recall, but you might just be seeing it in your gym as Halo look to expand their previously niche product.