What is Dormio, the MIT experiment that seeks to interfere with the plot of dreams

What is Dormio, the MIT experiment that seeks to interfere with the plot of dreams


Controlling dreams has been a desire of the human being.

It has happened to many of us that while we fall asleep, we come up with great ideas or the solution to a problem that was hanging around our heads during the day.

Some manage to jump up and write it down before they forget it; however, the frustrating thing is that many of us fall asleep and the next day there is no trace of that brilliant idea.

Well, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) created Dormio, a device that, according to them, helps to have some control over what we dream and remember it.

“We seek to hack the dream, ” Thomas Vega, a computer and cognitive scientist who is part of the team that developed Dormio, tells BBC.

Your idea is not new. For centuries, inventors and artists have tried to have lucid dreams that they can control and remember to use in their creations.

Copyright of the GETTY image
Image caption During hypnagogy we become more creative.

A legend in the world of science says that Thomas Alva Edison used to take naps with a metallic sphere in his hand. While he fell asleep, wonderful ideas came to mind. If he fell asleep deep, the ball fell to the ground, whereupon Edison woke up to write hastily what he had just dreamed.

Other geniuses such as Dalí, Nikola Tesla and Édgar Allan Poe also tried to capture the ideas that came to them during those micro-dreams.

Infiltrate dreams

When we go to sleep, after a few minutes we enter a state called hypnagogy , which is a kind of limbo between being awake and asleep.

A person sleeping
Copyright FLUID image INTERFACES
Image caption Dormio works with devices that detect when the person is falling asleep.

During that first phase of sleep, which can last between 2 and 10 minutes, our mind relaxes.

That means we let less logical, less structured thoughts flow. ” We become malleable and less inhibited,” explains Vega.

That helps during those minutes to be more creative , which manifests itself in semi-lucid dreams about which we can have some control.

This is exactly the moment that Dormio uses to enter dreams . When the device detects that the person is entering the phase of hypnagogy activates some stimuli, for example keywords that can guide a certain way the dream.

A man in a dream
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Image caption Dreams have been the inspiration of inventors, writers, musicians, painters and all kinds of artists.

Thus, if a person wants to dream about airplanes, he can program the device to tell him words that induce him to have a semi- lucid micro- dream with airplanes.

Then, when the device detects that the person is entering a deep sleep, he wakes her up so she can tell her what she was dreaming about.

Questions to solve

According to the creators of Dormio, their technology is still at an early stage and many questions still have to be answered, especially on issues such as the dream and the subconscious , which generate great debate among the scientific community.

A hand
Copyright FLUID image INTERFACES

Image caption 
Dormio is designed to be easy to use at home.

Several of those questions have to do with the ability that someone could have to insert ideas in the dreams of others, or that someone else has access to dreams that we prefer to keep private .

“What happens if I dream that I kill someone and another person has access to the recording where I tell that?” Vega asks. “Could you judge us by our dreams?”

In addition, they wonder about the influence that these dreams may have on the person’s life.

“Encouraging people to dream about certain issues can change the way they look at these issues when they wake up,” say the creators of Dormio on their website.

“We do not rule out those concerns,” they admit.

A woman fishing in a bathtub
Copyright of the GETTY image
Image caption When we sleep, we uninhibited ourselves and come up with ideas that are not limited by logic.

Science at home

The creators of Dormio say that their main objective is to stimulate research on sleep.

That’s why Dormio is built with open source , that is, anyone with certain programming knowledge can install the device and a mobile application to use it at home.

On the website of Dormio, its creators have the repository of codes and manuals available to use it.

For now, these MIT scientists are still working on perfecting the device, but according to Vega, they are already thinking of developing new technologies that will allow them not only to stimulate creativity in the first phase of the dream, but to explore the following phases and see what way that can be useful to improve aspects such as memory and learning.

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