How would you like to more easily "turn on" brainstorming in your mind? To prompt your brain's ability to flow between divergent and convergent thinking? This is something that Balder Onarheim and his research partner Morten Friis-Olivarius of the Copenhagen Institute of NeuroCreativity have given some thought to over the past few years. They have developed a type of brain stimulation device, a headset called Plato. They are beyond the beta testing stage, have completed initial testing with over one-hundred users, and have 3D printed hand crafted headsets. The objective is for the Plato device to be used by a range of people during their work day: engineers, lawyers, advertising marketers and students. For example, at those times when advertising executives need that clever insight in order to produce short and compelling briefs, the Plato headset will come in handy.

Materializing Creativity

Balder has said that the motivation for developing Plato was to materialize creativity: "Plato can actually help me while I am using it- and it helps me to structure my day around an intentional way of working." For example, Plato users could foreseeably organize their day by reserving time slots during the day to aid creative stimulation. It helps people to be much more strategic about their divergent and convergent thinking.

The Plato headset has two principal modes: Open and Close. The Open mode helps spark more free flowing thoughts and random associations; the Close mode helps the user to attain more focused, tunnel vision. We know that both are essential. If we were to ideate all day with no prompt to hone in on a tactical conclusion, then that's not very helpful. And alternatively, if we get laser focused on an issue, we don't have the expansive perspective to illuminate new insights.

Wearables for Mindfulness

Balder has been using his Plato headset since August 2015. He has observed that one outcome is that he has become better at observing his own state of mind. "... the more you manipulate your brain, the more attuned you feel to it- and the more accurate you get... at assessing that state of mind. You can begin to ask yourself, 'Will I need it for the task I am working on?'"

How Does Plato Work?

The brain operates on a series of electrical and chemical signals. Normally people will alter those chemicals through activities such as smoking cigarettes or drinking coffee. The Plato headset essentially alters the electrical signal by adding in more signals in certain areas of the brain so that activation is easier. You can also modulate and subtract stimulation- without adding chemicals into your body. "In that way, you no longer need to mess around with chemical additives in the brain," says Balder. This video explains Plato's functionality in more detail.

The name of the technology that the Plato headset incorporates is called transcranial electrical stimulation. There are other devices on the market making use of similar technologies, such as Halo and Thync. They range in price from $50- $600; Plato will be in the lower range.

Halo focuses on the athletic consumer and Thync focuses on the wellness sector. Plato's differentiator is that it targets professional knowledge workers focused on a specific task.

Ultimately, it is exciting to see the market expanding to more exoskeletal wearable technology that will help us at work and at play to exercise our minds toward a more creative state.

Published on: Oct 10, 2016