Note: The transcript contains more material than the video. Even if you prefer video to text, you may want to read it.
Timothy Lord for Slashdot: Jeremiah, what is REMzen?
Jeremiah: So REMzen is an intelligent slumber mask and what we've done is we've basically taken the same sort of technology that you would find in a sleep lab to analyze high quality sleep signals and we've condensed it into a sleep mask. So not only does it block out light but it's also capturing a lot of really good data about your sleep as well. And what we can do with that are a couple of really neat things: one is we are waking our users in a more natural way. What do I mean by that? A lot of people hate the sound of their alarm every morning and they believe that that means that they're not a morning person. But what we believe is that the human body isn’t conditioned to wake to sound and so generally what we have are a lot of people who think they hate mornings but really they just hate the way they're waking up. We make that more natural by waking our users with light.
Slashdot: So you have LEDs that are embedded in this mask?
Jeremiah: That's right. On the inside of the mask here we have LEDs and they'll wake the user with full spectrum artificial sunrise, it will stimulate cortisol. It's a more natural way of waking. Your body will feel better because of it and we one-up mother nature which is that because we're capturing all this high quality sleep data is we're able to wake the user at a time of lightest sleep. So we minimize what's called sleep inertia or grogginess. The user wakes up feeling refreshed in the right way. So that's kind of our day one value but obviously we're capturing this excellent data as well. So our users will be able to look at the data, see more about the quality of their sleep than they would get from a typical wearable which generally is just going to tell you how long you've slept which is
Slashdot: You mean things like Fitbit?
Jeremiah: Yeah, Fitbit, Jawbone, they essentially use a technology called actigraphy which measures the movement of your body. But what happens if your dog jumps in your bed with you or your spouse or partner rolls over, everyone's had the experience of ‘oh I wore my Fitbit mowing my lawn, it said I walked a hundred miles’. It's not very accurate data for anything outside the realm of what it's meant to do. And our basic philosophy is that the wearables out there don't really deal with sleep anything more than a gimmick.
Slashdot: Can you talk about the variety of data that you are collecting?
Jeremiah: Absolutely. So we collect two major signals that you would find in a sleep lab. One is called electrooculography--EOG. The other is EEG, which is your brain wave. Our algorithms rely heavily on EOG and actigraphy body movement like those other ones. So pairing the movement of the eyes with the motion of your body. But we also collect a good EEG signal and we give that to our users in the form of a raw data file so our users get our processed data telling them about the quality of their sleep, helping them find lifestyle habits that will give them better sleep. But in addition to that we give the raw data as well, so if you're a bio hacker, a quantified selfer or tech enthusiast you'll be able to write your own algorithms, track your own sleep, look at your own EEG signal and do everything on your own. Our goal is to have an open communication with our users so we can see what works best for people and we can pass that on to other users. Because what we're really passionate about is just giving people the most natural highest quality sleep experience they can have.
Slashdot: Talk about specifically the sensors and the rest of the hardware that allows you to gather the data you mentioned. What does it take?
Jeremiah: Certainly. So the sensors that you see her--this is a late stage prototype and it doesn't yet have our newer sensor solution on there but they basically accomplish the same things. These are electrodes, they go on your temple, they're very soft--you wouldn't even know they were there except that you see them. And what they do is your eyes actually have a positive charge on the cornea. So when your eyes move it detects a change in the electric field around your eyes. Secondly, of course we all know that brain waves are electrical impulses that you can sense through the skin. It captures those as well.
Slashdot: Through the very same sensor?
Jeremiah: Through the very same sensor. And the way that we're able to do that is that in the frequency domain or as far as frequency goes they're separated. So you can easily parse the two different signals and see them very clearly with just some rudimentary signal processing skills that a lot of tech enthusiasts will be able to do at home without any problem at all.
Slashdot: Now, you’re here at the Open Source Conference, explain what’s the open source connection?
Jeremiah: Certainly. So we very strongly believe in the open source mission. Of course, we have to please a range of shareholders and everything else. So we are not able to meet kind of our personal desire of it being a completely open source product. Nevertheless, we’ve developed our product using open source tools. We use open source firmware to develop our GUI and our high-level software based off of open source computer languages. Our goal, kind of our whole ethos with giving raw data is to just be as open as possible with our users, allow our users to not only have what we present to them as value but also be able to use our product as a platform for finding what's best for them and what works best for them.
END OF PUBLISHED VIDEO
Slashdot: Now one thing about openness is its standards and file formats are important. Is there a standard sort of an XML schema or something that you use to transmit sleep data?
Jeremiah: The way that our sleep data is coded right now is just as a text file. So our coded file will be interpreted by the high-level software, the graphic user interface, and you'll have plots and graphical representation of the data. The raw data is just recorded in 10-bit resolution, it is just a digital value and it's a text file numerical data that, like I said, you'll be able to import into your favorite signal processing software and display in whatever form that you like.
Slashdot: Two things more. Can you talk a little bit about the rest of the hardware that’s involved here? You’ve got LEDs, you've got your temple sensors, what about the actual CPU what's doing the work inside?
Jeremiah: Sure. Well, fortunately none of these things are too complicated so we just use mostly off-the-shelf components from Atmel and other producers. So we've got of course a microprocessor inside that does the signal processing, talks to USB, talks to our memory storage. We've got a clock in there. Obviously, if you have an alarm it's important to have accurate timekeeping. So we've got a clock, accelerometer, instrumentation to track the electrical signal. So there's analog and digital components in here. And then, of course, addressable RGB LEDs and battery power management ICs. Basically the whole gamut of what it takes to make an embedded system is on this board.
Slashdot: How long does the battery life last?
Jeremiah: We're still at a stage of development where we're doing power testing. Our product that will ship will last for at least obviously any kind of standard sleep usage. We've set a goal for ourselves of it lasting at least three days. We'd like to see it last longer--more than a week. Right now, we're using a very small battery and we're getting at least twelve hours of continuous use out of that. If we are able to continue with that battery we may have to make a change before we actually ship the product. But such is the nature of product development.
Slashdot: You mentioned this versus something like a Fitbit is doing more complex tracking--a very high quality of data. Are there things that you can get in a sleep lab, that you wish you could include here that you can’t yet?
Jeremiah: There are, and of course down the road as we develop our product we’ll look to add features. But the bane of an early startup is feature creep and we're very strongly fighting feature creep. So we feel that what we have right now is not the hardware platform that we have right now is not only very good for what we need it to do right now--to score sleep accurately, to provide meaningful data to the user, but there's enough hardware there that with firmware updates we can continue building for the foreseeable future until some day down the road a Version 2 is released. When it will be able to incorporate other sensors like pulse oximetry, perhaps, and some other ones.
Slashdot: At this point, things can always change, at this point how does one get data from this? Are you using a wireless system or are you using wired?
Jeremiah: Well, part of that depends on you – the folks out there. Right now it plugs in with a micro USB cable. At a certain point if we get enough orders that'll give us enough money to be able to incorporate Bluetooth on there, which is just a step up for those who might be worried about EMF radiation; however, you don't have to worry about it transmitting while the mask is on. Everything is processed on board. It would be a matter of just pairing it with your device after your night's sleep and downloading the data. So right now, micro USB, obviously BTLE Bluetooth low energy in the future.
Slashdot: And since you haven’t mentioned it, I'm going to guess it doesn't record sound, so it’s not collecting your snores at this point.
Jeremiah: This is not a snore sensor at this point. If we get a really crack software programmer out there who knows to score snoring based on body movement maybe that could be a firmware update. At this point, that would be a sensor down the road that we may incorporate. Right now we can track three signals very well. Like I said, EOG; actigraphy which is the movement of your body while you sleep; and EEG which is your brain waves.
Slashdot: Has it changed your sleep much?
Jeremiah: It has actually. It's very good. I suffer, just you know down-to-earth story I suffer from sleep apnea. I do not have the money to go to a sleep lab. I do not have sufficient even with insurance it would still cost me an arm and a leg. On top of that a CPAP machine. So basically I have experienced a lot of time in my life waking up feeling crummy in the morning, feeling foggy headed. And there's only so much I can do about that without either losing a lot of weight or getting a CPAP device. But I started with an LED light just a Happy Light in the morning. I found that if I was able to drag myself out of bed, make it to my computer desk, and flip on that light, within ten to fifteen seconds it’d be better than a cup of coffee. And now I have the ability to get that very same effect without even leaving my bed. So I'm waking up with it. It feels great and really even in the prototype form it has made an impact for sure.