New App Hopes To Dream Up The "Understood Self"

New App Hopes To Dream Up The "Understood Self"
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By Noah J. Nelson (@noahjnelson)

We spend a good portion of our lives dreaming, and there are whole schools of psychology dedicated to the idea that understanding our dreams can lead to a better understanding of ourselves.

Designer Hunter Lee Soik ascribes to that idea, and the's taking that belief and wedding it to the "quantified self" movement in the hopes that using the same methodologies tied to Fitbits and Nike FuelBands when applied to dreams can lead to an "understood self" movement.

Naturally there's an app for this--SHADOW-- and Soik is turning to Kickstarter to get it funded.

Soik and his team are proposing an alarm clock app that will use escalating alerts to gently wake the user. There are plenty of apps that do this already, but SHADOW adds in a built-in dream diary. Dreamers will be able to type in or dictate their dreams. If the user has trouble remembering there are question prompts.

Tags codify the dreams. If the user is up for it, the record can be sent to the cloud, stripped of identifying info, to be used by researchers and the "community of dreamers" to help better understand what we dream about and how that might be tied to different conditions in the waking world.

Wired's Liz Stinson has an excellent interview with the team behind SHADOW.

Yet to look at the comments on the Wired article is to invite depression. (I know, I violated Rule #1. I looked at the comments.) All these little minds dismissing dreams as gibberish. That's right, fellas, go on and ignore what your brain is up to for 6-8 hours a day. It can't possibly have any effect whatsoever on behavior.


The project is using Kickstarter in an innovative way as well.

Backers vote with their perk choices on which development path is explored first. Three platforms--iOS, Android, and Windows Phone--are offered. The one that has the most "votes", in the form of perks selected--will be the first platform on which SHADOW will ship.

The perks themselves are quite clever, from signed books on dreaming to a "Custom 3D Dream Audio Print." That last one is a plastic representation of a waveform based on a dictation of a dream.

Soik and company have a strong list of credits coming into this project, and a big list of advisors. The concept work that has been done already looks stunning, but what is really of interest is the long-term possibilities inherent in this kind of project. From the Kickstarter:

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.

I've been part of a dream database before, and while that was small, I actually found it incredibly satisfying to have a way of exploring other people's dreams. Knowing that my subconscious was churning out some of the same imagery as others was--paradoxically--incredibly liberating.

Of course, someone out there is bound to make the inevitable "now the NSA will know what we are dreaming" crack. There. I made it for you. Go back to sleep, don't let the boogeymen get you.

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