If Hypnagogia was a place we could explore at leisure, it’d break all tourism records. If it was a substance we could ingest legally, nobody would bother with psychedelic drugs. As it is, Hypnagogia is that twilight-zoney state between wakefulness and sleep where we’re treated to a rollicking range of sensory and hallucinatory experiences we can’t control nor generally even remember.
Not that this has stopped people trying. For centuries, thinkers, artists and scientists have attempted to mine the creative and conceptual gold lying just beyond reach of the conscious mind. Edgar Allan Poe described the “fancies” he could access “only when I am on the brink of sleep, with the consciousness that I am so." Nikolas Tesla and Thomas Edison both recognised the value of the ideas bubbling up during Hypnagogia, and Salvador Dalí was all over it. (No surprises there.)
But now researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a device called Dormio, an “interface to your semi-conscious dreams,” designed to “augment human creativity.” Whereas Dalí and co would hold a metal object in their hand as they napped, which would crash to the floor when their muscles started relaxing and wake them so they could record their Hypnagogic dreamlets, Dormio takes it to the next level.
A “hand-worn sleep-stage tracking system” monitors the wearer’s bio-signals (heart rate, muscle tone) to gauge where they are in their sleep cycle. When it detects that the user is progressing from Hypnagogia into deeper sleep, a bedside robot is activated, making a noise to semi-rouse the Dormio wearer and return them to their Hypnagogic state.
If the robot says a word, this will then feature in the person’s dreams. (The researchers suggest “fork” and “rabbit” as examples, but something like “cheesecake” or “UFO” might be fun too.)
The augmented creativity bit comes from extending and controlling one’s Hypnagogia, so as to fully explore and record what famous neurologist Oliver Sacks described as “the almost infinitely varied, ever-changing torrent of patterns and forms” that only occur in this state. “Few phenomena give such a sense of the brain’s creativity and computational powers,” he wrote.
Unleashing your dormant mental potential with such a user-friendly gizmo? Sounds like a dream come true.