About this project
“Sleep on it.” We’ve heard it before—this incitement to hit pause on a complex challenge, to let your brain work its magic, to give what’s troubling you over to Steinbeck’s “committee of sleep.”
And it works. Our brain is an incredibly creative problem solver. And some parts of it are most active while we’re sleeping. Electricity, Frankenstein’s monster, nonviolent resistance, laser technology—all of these were conceived in dreams. Sleep is where some of humanity’s most incredible creations got their start. Yet, we forget 95% of our dreams within five minutes of waking up. That’s a huge amount of data—with unfathomable of potential—we forget each day, all because we don’t have a good way to record and understand it. What would happen if we remembered? Even better, what if we learned to make sense of it? We’re here to find out.
Here’s how it works:
Quantified self products and alarm clocks that visualize your sleep patterns typically use built-in motion sensors to identify when you’re asleep and when you’re awake. But this technology is pretty limited, especially if the device you’re using (say, your phone) is on your mattress instead of on your body. Luckily, we have a lot of sleep research that can help us make this process more accurate, and more useful to the average dreamer.
The SHADOW actigraph will use the same motion sensor technology to track your sleep patterns, but add an extra layer of data personal to you: every morning when you wake up, SHADOW will ask you how groggy you feel. By plotting this data with the activity data that the app collects while you’re sleeping, we’ll be able to determine with startling accuracy the length of your individual sleep cycle. This number varies from person to person, but is relatively stable for each individual.
There’s a lot of conflicting data about which sleep state (light vs REM) is the most natural for you to be awoken from. So, instead of building a one-size-fits-all alarm clock that may leave some people more asleep than awake, we’re building an adaptive alarm that can learn your personal sleep style. With a smarter smart alarm, you can choose the best moment to wake up, maximizing dream recall and starting your day out right.
When I worked in my previous 2 startups, my crazy schedule meant I almost never slept enough. When I forced myself to take a break, suddenly this whole new world opened up to me. I was having these really awesome dreams that I really wanted to remember. But I had no way of doing it. By tying the dream capture process into a daily ritual—the alarm clock—SHADOW seamlessly integrates into our sleep cycle, making it easy to visualize our dream life, tap into global dream patterns, and better understand ourselves and our world.
SHADOW also makes the whole process of waking up a bit easier. Using escalating alarms, SHADOW gradually transitions you through your hypnopompic state—that hazy in-between sleep phase—in a way that helps you better remember what you’ve dreamed.
At its heart, SHADOW is still an alarm clock—just one with beautiful, advanced features. You tell SHADOW what time you want to wake up, and arm the alarm when you go to bed. SHADOW uses a series of escalating alarms to wake you up. The gradual increase in volume helps you better remember your dreams by taking you through your hypnopompic state (the transition from asleep to awake) much slower than a standard alarm clock.
Once you’re awake, SHADOW immediately prompts you to record your dreams via voice, text or question. Speak directly into the app to record your dream, and SHADOW will transcribe it, or type the content directly into the blank text box. If you’re really struggling to remember what you dreamed, you can opt to answer a series of 5-10 questions designed to jog your memory. The whole process takes less than five minutes.
Once the data is recorded in the app, you decide how far and wide to share it. SHADOW is inherently social, but dreaming is intensely private. At every step in the process, you choose who you share your dream content with. Keep dreams to yourself or push them to the cloud, where your personal data is stripped and the content helps provide dream context to users all over the world.
The longer you use the app, the more rewarding the experience. SHADOW visualizes your sleep and dream patterns, and identifies common themes. Using dream content of other users, SHADOW turns these symbols and experiences into insights. And at the same time you’re learning about yourself, we’re working behind-the-scenes to organize all this data into the largest database of human dream knowledge in the world.
But SHADOW isn’t just about illuminating our interconnectedness. It’s a platform for learning more about ourselves, too. The quantified self movement has given us many tools to measure what we do, but very few to help us understand that data. We can quantify ourselves, but do we really understand ourselves? By combining daily tracking with scientific and psychological research, SHADOW can visualize and contextualize dreams and help users progress from simply recalling their dreams to understanding them.
Like astronauts gazing back on Earth for the first time, we think of SHADOW as a mechanism for seeing the world from a different perspective. Our dreams are mysterious, complex, brilliant, and easily forgotten. They also just might hold the key to the future. That’s what SHADOW is really all about. We know it sounds crazy, but at some point so did the idea that the world is round. We want to harness and activate the incredible potential of our dreams by uncovering and demystifying the dream data we lose each morning when we wake up. And we need your help.
We're not scientists, so we've assembled an awesome group of PhD's and dream researchers to advise us and help SHADOW take shape. But, on any given day, the SHADOW team looks like this: four people spread across at least three time zones, hustling to get this rocket to launch.
SHADOW is not about data mining our dreams. We understand that dreams are incredibly personal, and that collecting all this data comes with enormous responsibility. We’ve assembled an advisory board of dream researchers and neuroscientists to make sure we handle your sensitive information with care. And we’re committed to following the ethical guidelines of the International Association for the Study of Dreams. You can read the whole thing here |
We’ll respect your rights as users; be as honest, accurate and open-minded as we can when giving insights and context to your dreams; ensure your privacy by letting you control the data you store and share; and keep everything else confidential.
The International Association for the Study of Dreams acknowledges the value and importance of the study of dreams and recognizes the responsibility inherent in such study and its consequent applications. The Association encourages its members to exemplify the highest standards of ethical behavior in whatever involvement they may have with dreams. Members are thus encouraged to do their utmost to respect the rights and dignity of other persons; to be honest, accurate and open-minded in the presentation of information and ideas; to insure privacy and confidentiality in dealing with clients, research subjects or members of the general public; and to prevent and avoid any situation where a conflict of interest may compromise the capacity for making prudent and objective decisions and responses. In keeping with these broad principles, the Association considers it unethical, at its own conferences and programs, for members to use direct solicitation or persuasion for economic or self aggrandizement. Presenters are expected to be honest and accurate in the communication of their own credentials and competencies.
I don’t really believe in limits.
Since I was a kid, I’ve always seen obstacles as opportunities: to make ourselves vulnerable, to learn about each other, to stretch way beyond our boundaries. Looking at life this way is generally exhilarating. But it can also be exhausting. So a year ago, when my work with the Watch the Throne tour wrapped up and I suddenly had some free time, I did what most of us would do. I slept. And in that sleep, the deepest I had in a very long while, I dreamed of SHADOW. SHADOW is the world’s first alarm clock that helps people remember and record their dreams. It transcribes your dreams, pulls out the keywords, strips away any data that could identify you, and pushes it to a giant global data cloud—where other
SHADOW users can see global dream patterns and find dreamers like them around the world. Why do I care so much about dreams? Because we sleep for a third of our lives, and we forget 95% of our dreams within five minutes of waking up. But some really pivotal things—laws of physics, technological advancements, classic works of literature—were born of dreams. We’re socialized to think of sleep as inactivity, but certain parts of our brain—the parts that handle things like problem solving and memory—are most active while we’re sleeping. That’s a huge amount of potential we’re forgetting each morning. Like astronauts gazing back on Earth for the first time, SHADOW is way to see the world from a different angle. It’s also a bit of a gamble. We want to create a global dream community and assemble the world’s largest dream database. I don’t know what all this data will reveal about our world, but I’m sure it will be mind blowing.
At least, that’s the dream.
-hunter lee soik
Founder + CEO SHADOW | Community of Dreamers
Risks and challenges
We’ve got a great team of seasoned designers, developers and business people working round-the-clock to make SHADOW a reality. Still, we’re not done yet. Our biggest challenge is funding: we need to meet our Kickstarter goal to finish developing our product, test it, and get it out to you. If we don’t meet our goal, there’s an even bigger, more existential risk: all this interesting, important data will continue to be forgotten. And that’s a risk we’re not really willing to take. Are you?Learn about accountability on Kickstarter