Today I got to Interview Laura Berman from Melon. I hope you enjoy it!
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Ari: Hi and welcome to the podcast. Today we’re talking with Laura Berman, cofounder of Melon. Hi, Laura.
Laura: Hi, Ari. How’s it going?
Ari: Good, thanks for talking with us today. Why don’t you just start off by telling everybody what Melon is?
Laura: Yeah, Melon is an EEG headband that monitors brain wave activity and we correlate that to focus and then we have an app that lets you track your task and your environment and any other tags that you want to enter. Then, from there you can learn how your focus is affected by those tags and learn to improve and right now we’re on Kickstarter.
Ari: Great. First of all, for people who don’t know, explain what EEG protocol is really.
Laura: Yeah. EEG is the technology that has been around for almost a century now. Basically, it measures the electrical activity that is given off by your brain. Kind of in the same way that EKG measures the electrical activity from your heart; we do the same thing for your brain. Your brain is constantly giving off different types and amounts of that activity and different ratios of that correlate to different mental states. That’s what we’re looking at with the headband.
Ari: So, you're looking at sort of general like mental activity levels and focus or is that really the focus – pardon the redundancy – but is the focus on focus?
Laura: Yeah, well, as a company we’re focused on focus; I know it’s redundant but there’s tons of other mental states that can be measured with the headband. In our SDK people can work with different sleep states, they can work with medication; lots of different things.
Ari: So how does it differ from something like the ZEO sleep coach, for instance?
Laura: So, it’s pretty similar to ZEO in terms of the fact that both of them are EEG headbands. So, just like our headband can monitor sleep states, ZEO’s headband could have monitored attention. It’s just what the companies are focused on; it differs.
Ari: So, you could wear yours 24/7 if you wanted to?
Laura: If you wanted to, yeah.
Ari: So, what kinds of things do you see people sort of using this for? Generally just for work? I know in the Kickstarter video you have somebody doing yoga with it on. I mean, it’s sort of to improve in all aspects of your life?
Laura: Yeah, what we really wanted to do was create a really open platform because everybody that we talked to has something different that they focus on and they want to learn how to improve their focus on. Yeah, the video shows me doing yoga. We show somebody doing work; I use it when I'm working. I'm a golfer; I use it to help my focus with golf. With the app, people can put in the tags for whatever their doing. Our goal is just to help people improve what they already do in their day to day life and not give them more to do; if that makes sense.
Ari: Golf’s a great example; I'm also a golfer.
Ari: How can you use that information sort of in real-time or is it something that you have to play your game and then kind of re-examine how it went focus wise? Is there sort of a mediate sleep back loop that you can use?
Laura: Yeah. So, it works both ways. The EEG is really responsive and it’s great to use in real-time. So, one way you could use it in real-time on the golf course is bring a friend and have them look at the app for you kind of while you're hitting a shot. For me, I use it not so much in real-time. A situation where I did a training with the focus; the focus training and then with my pre-shot routine, I carry over the things I learn from that. With my pre-shot routine I get really focused before my shot. There's a few different ways to use it.
Ari: Ok, that’s interesting. Once you train yourself you sort of can actually determine that you have entered a focused state before you make the action?
Laura: Yeah. It’s something where I developed a tool, a mental tool, where I knew I was really focused and I could carry it out over to my golf game without even wearing the headband while I'm out on the golf course.
Ari: Obviously, stress and focus are related in some ways. I'm assuming you're familiar with heart rate variable training and the related sort of protocols around that, do those sort of aim at this at all?
Laura: So, stress is something that can be measured with EEG. It’s not something that we’re looking at specifically. I think the way it manifest itself most in what we’re doing is if you're stressed, you're not going to show up as focused in our algorithm. That’s just something that people need to be more self-aware of with our application or maybe someone wants to create an application for stress using our SDK.
Ari: Well, one of the things I was thinking is there's like an app called do your own stress factor where you can test your heart rate variability in the morning and based on the results that you can decide if you're going to work out at all or if you're going to do a really hard work out. I'm guessing and I feel like you could probably use melon for something similar where you could say like I need to write this really important chapter in my novel and I wake up today and Melon says I'm not very focused today so maybe I shouldn’t do that today. Could you do that?
Laura: Yeah. Well, I think that people’s mental states fluctuate a lot over the course of the day and I really can’t imagine a day where somebody would wake up and something would be so wrong where they couldn’t regain focus if they woke up really unfocused. Part of what Melon does is it helps you identify your specially focused moments and helps you recreate those. also, if you are wearing the headband and you are focused and you’ve gotten into that focused state and your focus dips for a sustained period of time, we’ll give you tips and encourage you to take breaks during those times to help you maintain focus over a much longer period of time instead of trying to work through those really unfocused moments.
Ari: Gotcha. That’s really, really cool. You can use that information to decide which activity might be best to do in given time. One of the things I'm big on with lessdoing is sort of learning your, for lack of better words, your biorhythm in determining what time of day and what times a week are better for you to do certain activities. Whether it’s writing or something creative or crunching numbers. I feel like Melon could probably give you a really drilled down answers for those questions.
Laura: Yeah, absolutely. That’s part of what our app is really built to do. So, if you use Melon different times of day or if the weather is different, we keep track of all those variables. If you find out, through using Melon, you write best in the morning when it’s sunny that you should never even try writing when it’s raining outside or something. Those are insights that we are delivering through our apps.
Ari: Now, what are you visually sort of see on the app? Is it a color changing orb? How does it sort of identify your levels of focus? Is it graphs?
Laura: Yeah, we visually focus in a unique way. We have a gradient in the app that changes colors based on your focus level. Red means you're really unfocused and then in changes all the way through all these colors to blue meaning you're at your most focused state. Any section of the app always has that gradient changing in the background so you can always look over and see where you're at. Then, our insights also just display that later in the trend section.
Ari: Ok, cool. Now, another thing that always comes up a lot with quantified helpers and biohackers is sort of the realm of neutropics and whether that means drinking a cup of coffee or taking something like badasino (sp.), could you, obviously it seems like you would be able to use Melon to determine when that substance or aid has kicked in.
Laura: Yeah. I think this definitely helpful if you want it to kick in. I know just from personal experience, there's a sort of tendency to drink coffee at any time your focus dips or anytime you feel a little tired and just kind of continuously add to the amount of caffeine you’ve had in a day. It also help you figure out when you’ve had too much coffee or what point you’ve had too much and it’s actually negatively affecting your focus.
Ari: Well, so now have you found out anything surprising about yourself while using it?
Laura: Well, I've almost stopped drinking caffeine actually; I found that it doesn’t work well for me. The take it’s had on my golf game is that my pre-shot routine is really changed and my golf game’s improved from working with the Melon.
Ari: It’s funny because I really like the taste of coffee but I don’t like the effects that caffeine has; it tends to make me kind of jittery. But I’ll drink coffee which I cold brew and I usually put it in a smoothie but I never find that it gives me a difference in energy level now a days, it really just is sort of a difference in my cognitive function or my clarity of that day. Yeah, so I totally get that. It’s sort of knowing how to use tools properly rather than just taking a shot kind of approach.
Laura: Yeah, exactly.
Ari: So, the Kickstarter campaign I know you’ve gotten to your goal already, right, and you have quite a bit of time left?
Laura: Yeah, we hit our goal pretty quickly, I think on the 3rd day. We’re about halfway through our second hundred thousand which [10:46] headband and then we have about, ithink,24 more days left in the campaign right now.
Ari: Well, I mean congratulations on that alone. People never realize how many Kickstarter campaigns don’t do well, they just hear from the ones that do do well. So, great job
Laura: Thank you.
Ari: on getting where you are. When are the expected to be delivered?
Laura: We’re planning on shipping in November.
Ari: Oh, great. Are you having it manufactured somewhere in America or somewhere else?
Laura: Yeah, we’re looking at manufacturers here in the US; we’re really excited to do that. We took a trip to China last year and had some of our prototypes filled. We’re a small team and manufacturing in the US is a better option for us. So, that’s what we’re looking to do.
Ari: That’s wonderful. I'm going to reverse orders on my last two questions here. First of all, tell everybody the URL that they can go to get in on this awesome tool.
Laura: Tell everybody where they can go to get in on this awesome tool?
Ari: Yeah, the URL.
Laura: Oh, the URL. Well, the URL is really long but if you Google Kickstarter and Melon headbands, it should just be the first thing that pops up.
Ari: Well, we’re going to link to it in the post as well but I like to have people say it anyway. Well, so then the last question that I always ask people on this podcast is, and I'm really interested to hear what your answers are, what are the top three things that you do be as effective as possible? What are those three things that make you just really effective?
Laura: Alright. So, I’d say my number one thing is knowing what time of day I'm most productive and for me it’s the morning, by far. The second thing I’d say is don’t overdo the caffeine because it can be really detrimental. And I would say that the third thing is just to make sure you take lots of breaks because it’s impossible for anyone to sustain for focus for an extremely long period of time but taking breaks really helps you over the course of the day.
Ari: Those are great examples. Do you have any structure to the breaks that you take?
Laura: To the breaks that I take?
Laura: I take short breaks like 5 minute breaks. It’s always good to get up and walk around whether you’re just walking to go get a glass of water or kind of stretching. Anything that can get your body moving a little bit in between kind of your sit down focus session is really helpful.
Ari: Great. Well, Laura I really appreciate your time. I know that I can’t wait to try out my Melon headband and I hope that people found this interesting and end up supporting the campaign which is already funded successfully. If you get in on it, you're going to get a Melon headband and be more focused. Laura, thanks again for your time.
Laura: Yeah, thank you for having me.