The InstaDreamer is claimed to be a device which has apparently successfully induced lucid dreams in 14 out of 19 users, within its first 3 nights of use.
In several of my articles posted throughout this website, I fleetingly mentioned the availability of various devices focused on the induction of lucid dreaming, in addition to the techniques I discussed. The reason I never went into details on any of these devices is that I personally do not believe (until solid proof to the contrary, of course) that these contraptions are worthy of more than just a footnote in any serious lucid dream-induction protocol.
InstaDreamer though – the latest in a line of LD devices financed through KickStarter and IndieGoGo – definitely deserves a closer look, if for no other reason, then for the hype that it has thus far generated. Indeed, there are scores of raving InstaDreamer reviews out there, and the device hasn’t even been launched yet.
Before I delve into this InstaDreamer review, I will put it forth that – as with any such device – I’m rather skeptical about most of the claims made by the people pushing the InstaDreamer. Does this mean I believe it to be a scam from the get-go? No, but I will need solid proof to be convinced that it truly works as claimed.
What exactly is InstaDreamer and how is it supposed to help trigger lucid dreams?
At first glance, based on the data provided by the KickStarter page of the device, by various promotional videos, supporters and critics, InstaDreamer is a relatively simple contraption, the main focus of which is to help with reality checks, through vibration-based notifications.
Long story short: the device – which comes in the shape of a wearable bracelet – vibrates at various times throughout the day, effectively reminding the wearer to conduct a reality check. Having developed a Pavlovian reflex in the user, it then does the same during dreams, triggering lucidity by reminding the user to perform a reality check within the dream.
This – at least – is the theory, and in an ideal world, where the mechanics of in-dream lucidity were simple and readily exploitable, it would indeed work like a charm. The question here is though: how does all this work in the real world?
Unfortunately, the answer to that is much more complex than the InstaDreamer folks would have you believe.
Another question to answer is: how exactly does the device “know” when its wearer reaches the REM stage of sleep? While this one is easier to answer at first glance (InstaDreamer allegedly monitors the temperature and pulse of the wearer to fill in this all-important variable) at a closer look, it only gives rise to still more questions and unsatisfying answers.
Just how effective/accurate is this method of REM-stage detection and how accurately can the apparently loose-fitting device collect even this data? Some budget smart-watches (costing around $20) can allegedly perform the same stunt, though I have to say I have my reservations regarding the effectiveness of their data-collection method too. Let us just assume though that this $20 technology works, and let us assume that it works better still in the $249 InstaDreamer.
It is a well-known fact in LD-circles that in the 80s, Stephen LaBerge used a device capable of detecting eye-movement, to determine whether one is in the REM stage of sleep or not. While such an approach is certainly science-rooted, the InstaDreamer makes no use of this method.
Can one truly and accurately deduct from body temperature and heart-rate alone, whether the REM stage has truly been reached, or is this but an exercise in futility?
LaBerge’s aforementioned device used light and sound stimuli to alert the dreamer that he/she should conduct a reality check in his/her dream and thus become lucid. The problem was that the stimuli woke up the oneironauts more often than not, putting an abrupt end to the whole experiment.
The InstaDreamer folks make a big fuss about their device using “haptic feedback” instead of visual and audio alerts. That’s fine and dandy, the question is though whether this type of approach is indeed less likely to result in the awakening of the user.
There is no scientifically obtained/structured data provided in this regard. There are instead people stating that they are much more easily awakened by their vibrating smart-watches (when they forget them on) than by visual/audio stimuli. If that indeed is the case, InstaDreamer’s main selling point can be considered flushed away.
So does the InstaDreamer pitch hold any water after all?
As I’ve made it clear through my above musings, there are gaping holes in InstaDreamer’s case from an objectively scientific perspective. Again: I’m not out to prove this device is a scam. I just have questions in its regard, questions that for now have gone unanswered.
The fact that the InstaDreamer people aren’t exactly on top of their game promotions-wise either, does further damage to the credibility of the entire picture.
What am I talking about? Having priced their product at $249, they utterly fail to convince me that the technology it uses is any more advanced in any way than that of the above-mentioned $20 smart-watch.
Let us generously look past that issue though and consider their interactions with the ever-inquisitive LD public.
InstaDreamer’s pushers have gotten involved in some feisty-toned back-and-forth with their potential customers on Reddit.
The LD community there has effectively agreed that no device could possibly ever deliver “instant LDs.” Lucid dreaming is a complex phenomenon of the mind, the components of which cannot possibly be substituted by a smart-watch masquerading as some kind of high-tech LD-induction device.
In response to the above said Reddit posts, the people behind InstaDreamer have stated that they had never claimed the device could deliver “instant LDs.” The truth of the matter is however that their main promotional video states just that…there is just no way around that.
In addition to that, those pushing the device one way or another, have apparently embarked on a revenge spree against those who had made disparaging posts on Reddit about the device. Needless to say, none of this really helps the case of InstaDreamer.
That said, some 702 people have thus far found it worth their while to support the creators of the device financially, to the tune of more than $140,000, on KickStarter alone.
To those who have been around this shakier segment of the lucid dreaming industry for a while, it all seems very familiar indeed: InstaDreamer is far from being the first LD-focused device that’s raised massive amounts of money through crowd-funding.
In fact, in this regard, it is far from being the most successful. Apparently, every year, someone comes out with a new twist on LD-inducing novelty devices, and every year, the community puts its money behind these efforts.
The iBand for instance, a headband endowed with EEG sensors, garnered more than $2 million. Though the principle upon which its functioning was predicated looked arguably more solid than the above described InstaDreamer one, it too ended up on the garbage-heap of LD history, nothing more than a perhaps-shameful footnote.
Why do I bring up these – presumably already expired – attempts at catching lightning in a bottle LD-wise? Simple: they provide a relevant background to the phenomenon the current manifestation of which is InstaDreamer. These guys were not the be-all and end-all alluded to in the title.
Could InstaDreamer be it? Maybe, but beheld against this background, it does not look impressive at all.
Is it all bad though that the community is so eager to back these projects? Not by a long-shot. After all, trial-and-error is indeed valid research, though with InstaDreamer, this whole status quo may have made a move in the wrong direction.
The moment that actual LD-induction ceases to be the main goal of the creators of these devices, and money-making takes its place, it is time to abandon this avenue.
Crowd-funding is a potent tool, though – due to its nature – it is easily hijacked. The community could invest the money poured into these novelty devices into something much more useful, into actual research and discussion which could significantly forward our understanding of the phenomenon, thus helping with LD-induction too.
So what’s my bottom line on InstaDreamer?
As I said, the goal of this InstaDreamer review is to take an objective look at the product and to pose some very legitimate questions about its features, capabilities as well as about the way its creators are raising funds.
No, I am not calling it a fraud. As a matter of fact, I’d probably put it to the test myself; after all, the worst thing that can happen is that common sense and reason prevail and the InstaDreamer fails.
That said, I have some major common sense-rooted reservations its regard.
To sum it up:
- I find the device wholly unimpressive in regards to the technology it uses. When a cheap smart-watch features by-and-large the same capabilities as a device that’s supposed to revolutionize something as challenging as lucid dreaming, an alarm bell is certainly rung.
- InstaDreamer is definitely part of a trend that has – in my opinion – hijacked the financial poise of the LD community, with not much to show results-wise in return.
- the principle upon which the device is predicated (the induction of a Pavlovian response in the user) is not new, and its application is just as unimpressive as the technology used. In fact, given how it oversimplifies reality-checking, it may even turn out to be counterproductive. What do I mean by that? Proper reality-checking is about much more than a simple gesture, randomly triggered through the day by a vibrating bracelet. Critical thinking, observation and awareness should also be involved, not to mention the most important component: knowledge of one’s own dreams.
- as I pointed out above, this device is most likely unable to tell when you are in the REM sleep stage. Monitoring your heart rate and body temperature simply does not provide it enough information in this regard.
What about all those positive InstaDreamer reviews out there?
For the time being, until proper user-feedback becomes available, I will simply have to consider such reviews opinion pieces.
It also has to be noted that some of these positive reviews promise their readers discounts and special deals once the device becomes available. That may be seen as a “subtle” clue regarding their objectivity.
The proof is in the pudding
…or rather: the proof of the pudding is in the eating. In this case, that proof would present itself in droves of raving user reviews, if the InstaDreamer did indeed end up delivering on its ambitious promises.
Therefore, I’d like to ask you to share your InstaDreamer experience with me if you happen to get your hands on one of these devices. Nothing beats a hands-on test, though I suspect that the above said “droves of raving user reviews” will somehow fail to show up.
Also note though that I am ready to throw my full support behind this effort, if somehow – by some weird twist of fate and happenstance – it turns out to work as currently advertised…
The following video, exposing the lucid dreaming industry, inspired me to post this review. Check it out: