Muse Review: A Meditation Tracker and Headset

Dave Greenbaum

If you’re trying to relax more and get a good night’s sleep, meditation will help with both of these goals. It’s a popular topic everywhere. Lots of programs for Android and iOS help.The Muse has a hardware and software combination that claims to make meditation easier. For $250 it’s an expensive option, but it may be worth it if you’re struggling.

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You don’t need technology to meditate, but it can help | Shutterstock

What is it?

The headband looks like a set of headphones. Instead of putting them behind your head, you put the band in front. The back of it hooks around your ears. It uses Bluetooth to connect to your mobile device. The Muse charges with a standard micro-USB cable. I got in about 15 practices before I had to charge it.

Muse headband

Along with the headband is an Android or iOS app. The headband reads your brainwaves and gives you biofeedback on your meditation practice through the app. If you wander, it lets you know with an audio signal. If you’re relaxed, it lets you know with little bird sounds.

Once you buy the headband, you don’t have to pay any subscription or other fees, unlike other apps we covered.

How Does it Work?

When you open the app, it connects with your headband. The app verifies you have good contacts on your head and it’s reading the signal. It then begins the calibration process.

sensingbrain

During the calibration process, it asks you to name categories of things: musical instruments, historical figures, restaurants and so forth. It measures your active mind so it knows when you’re relaxing. Many people find that process annoying. I enjoyed it. It defined the start of my practice. I separated what I was thinking about before with the simple task of naming things. After naming those things, I was ready to clear my mind and focus on my breath.

calibrating

When the practice begins, you get to pick your background noise. On iOS, they give you a beach or ambient electronic music. On Android, they swap ambient music for a rainforest. You set the length of your practice: 3 minutes up to 20 minutes. The app also lets you set a custom length.

If you like, the iOS app can start with one of ten short guided introductions of about a minute. The app lets you skip the guided meditation entirely. The Android version doesn’t include the introductions.

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During your meditation, you’ll hear some background noises. As your mind wanders, the noise levels rise. That’s your cue that you’re getting off track and need to return to your meditation. When you’re extra-calm, you’ll hear chirping birds.

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At the end of the practice, the app analyzes how calm you were and how your mind wanders. It scores you and gives you badges and challenges for different accomplishments. If you forget to practice, the app can be set to remind you through notifications.

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Keep forgetting to meditate? Try an app like Coach.me (formerly Lift) or some online services to keep you accountable.

Is it Effective?

I’ve tried dozens of meditation apps. The nature of meditation makes it hard to measure. Without data, you’re not sure if you’re doing it right or getting better. Meditation coaches tell me that isn’t a big deal. It’s all about the practice. The problem is I often get bored meditating. I might try different breathing or a guided meditation.

progress

Meditation with Muse is fun. I feel like I’m playing a video game, much like my fitness tracker. I set specific goals and get instant feedback on my progress. I did get bored with the limited guided meditations and background music. The progress syncs to the cloud so I was able to use both my Android and iOS devices so I could pick three different background sounds. The cloud-based approach also lets you share the device with family and friends. They can have the app on their mobile device and use your Muse.

Need other sounds? Try out some iOS and Android apps for background meditation music.

Is it Worth it?

The retail price of this headband is $250. That’s much less expensive than an EEG machine and easier to use. For a fitness-style tracker, it’s on the high end. Initially, I worried that if Muse went out of business, I’d be stuck with no way of getting the data. I found Muse Monitor that is an independent app from the makers of Muse, InteraXon. This iOS and Android app reads the raw data from your headband.

musemonitor

Sleepy after your meditation? Try these apps to track if you got a better night’s sleep.

If you’re a pro at meditation and mindfulness, the headband won’t help. Muse is a way of introducing you to meditation. It’s designed for the person who wants to meditate, but can’t get the hang of it. The headband’s top skill is to tell you when your mind is wandering and coaches you to restore your focus.

Overall Review: Suggestions and Recommendations

After a few weeks, I got pretty good at knowing how my meditation sessions were going. My stats started being pretty consistent. That’s when I started mixing things up. I’d use the Muse Monitor along with other meditation apps. This prevents me from getting bored but still let me track the progress. Other times I’d start with the Muse headband, listen to a guided meditation for a few minutes, and then return to the Muse. This allowed me to track my calmness before and after my meditation. This exploration helped me find meditations that worked best for me.

Since InteraXon has a 60-day money back guarantee, I’d suggest trying it. You might get good enough with your practices before the end of the 60 days.

ALSO READ:3 Impressive Tools to Help You Create New Habits

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Dave Greenbaum

Written By

Dave Greenbaum

I have a passion for helping people make technology work.

For my day job, I own a computer repair business in Lawrence, Kansas. Drawing on my support background, I focus on practical technology from the user perspective. I enjoy it all: Android, Chrome OS, iOS, MacOS, Windows and everything in between.