CES 2024: I used this weird AI ‘brainband’ for a month, and it cured my insomnia
13 mins read

CES 2024: I used this weird AI ‘brainband’ for a month, and it cured my insomnia


When I first stumbled upon the Frenz Brainband AI sleep device at CES earlier this year, I was skeptical. Who wouldn’t be? You’re telling me this crown-like thingamajig can actually cure my insomnia — with AI and binaural beats?

Pfft, no way. Nope. I don’t believe it.

However, Earable Neuroscience (the team behind Frenz) sent me a unit for me to test ahead of its CES 2024 showcase. And to my surprise, after using the Brainband for a month, my doubts were quieted.

However, there are still some flaws that need to be rectified before the product is truly ready for prime time.

Frenz Brainband price

The Brainband costs $520 via Amazon.

Along with the funky-looking, avant-garde crown, it ships with a charging cable.

At first, I thought the device was overpriced. However, I must take into account that the Frenz Brainband is very new to the market, so it’s trying to appeal to early adopters who don’t mind experimenting with fledgling tech. In time, as it grows in popularity, the price should drop.

Second, in my experience, the device actually works, so the question is, would I drop over $500 on a device that promises to improve my sleep? Hell, yeah.

If a wearable can cost $800 and do nothing for my sleep but track it (I’m lookin’ at you Apple Watch Ultra 2), the Frenz Brainband’s price is actually quite reasonable.

How does the Frenz Brainband work?

To give you a little background about myself, I suffer from insomnia. There are times I can’t seem to fall asleep until 7 a.m. My mind is simply too busy; it’s running a million miles per minute, and I can’t make it stop.

Frenz Brainband

The Frenz Brainband promises to help you wake up refreshed … does it work?
Credit: Joe Maldonado / Mashable

I’m not new to sleep tech. For example, I’ve experimented with the Apollo Neuro, a wearable that, in part, claims to help lull you to sleep. In that review, I explained that it did absolutely nothing for me in terms of improving my slumber. I’ve tested smartwatches from Apple and Samsung. They track your sleep, but they’re not designed to improve it.

The Frenz Brainband, on the other hand, does claim to enhance your sleep, ensuring that you knock out faster and deeper. And not only that, the Frenz Brainband promises to help you wake up refreshed — by using on-device machine-learning that offers personalized sleep and coaching programs. To put it succinctly, the Frenz Brainband relies on sensors to learn who you are and delivers science-backed audio and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) voice coaching that is customized for you.

What I love about the Frenz Brainband

There are pros and cons to every product I review, so first, let’s start with what I appreciate about the Frenz Brainband.

Setup was easy

You must connect the Frenz Brainband to your phone via Bluetooth, which lets you interact with a companion app called “FRENZ sleep.”

Frenz Brainband

The companion app walks you seamlessly through setup.
Credit: Joe Maldonado / Mashable

The way that the companion app takes you through the setup process step-by-step is thoughtful — as if the Earable Neuroscience team anticipated every head-scratching thought that would plague n00bs during the onboarding journey.

There’s a slideshow that walks you through how to wear the Brainband properly, how to connect it to your phone, how to turn off the band, and how binaural beats and voice coaching work in unison to deliver sleep magic.

Sensors detect seven different data points

One thing that shocked me about the Frenz Brainband is that it knows if I’m wearing it upside down. And get this — it can even detect whether you’re sleeping on your back, your side, and other positions. How? It’s got plenty of sensors that can detect the following:

In collecting this data about you, the on-device machine-learning models determine which voice coaching and soothing audio to deliver to you before you sleep. The more you use it, the better it gets at “understanding” you.

Frenz Brainband

The Brainband has sensors detecting a ton of data about how you sleep.
Credit: Joe Maldonado / Mashable

If you’re wondering about privacy, a Frenz rep assured me that all the data is stored locally, and the company does not have access to users’ tracked information.

It actually works

I was initially baffled by this AI-powered brainband, and my expectations were low. I thought, “How is this going to work?” On top of that, I thought that even if it did work for some, it wasn’t meant for me, because I don’t like to sleep with noise. I like complete and utter silence.

Frenz Brainband

I woke up in the morning — well-rested, mind you — and thought, “What just happened?”
Credit: Joe Maldonado / Mashable

However, I kept an open mind and gave it a go.

The tunes the AI selected for me sounded like meditation music — ethereal, soothing, and ambient. The voice coaching is reminiscent of any “AI voice” you’d hear in a sci-fi movie. It doesn’t sound robotic, but “Siri-esque,” if that makes sense. Still, I thought, “Come on; this won’t help my insomnia!” Soon after, I woke up in the morning — well-rested, mind you — and thought, “What just happened?”

I sat up in my bed that morning, and at first, I thought something had gone wrong. I no longer heard music or voice coaching, but as it turns out, when the Brainband detects that you’ve fallen asleep, it ceases all sound. After falling asleep so quickly the first time I used it, I thought, “This must be a fluke.”

However, I tried it again and again for a month, and each time I used it, I no longer laid on my back wondering when my mind would stop racing.

It’s comfortable to wear (for me)

When I saw the Frenz Brainband, which looks like something straight out of Star Trek, I thought, “Would I feel comfortable wearing that?” As it turns out, it’s made out of a material called thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) that feels very soft, durable, and pliable — and it’s hypoallergenic, too.

Keep in mind that not everyone would agree. One of my coworkers tried it on and didn’t find it pleasant to wear.

In-app activity tracking is awesome

Frenz Brainband app

Get ready to find out a whole lot more about how you’re sleeping.
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

Under the “Insights” tab in the companion app, you can get a wealth of information on your sleep:

  • Total sleep time

  • Sleep efficiency (measures your actual sleep time compared to your total time in bed)

  • Time to fall asleep (the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep after getting into bed)

  • Bedtime routine (the time you tend to sleep during the week)

  • Wake up routine (the time you tend to wake up during the week)

  • Average heart rate (it should be between 60 and 100)

  • Blood-oxygen level (it should be between 95% and 100%)

Frenz Brainband app

It even picks up on your favorite sleep position!
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

It even tells you which sleeping position is your obvious favorite. I seem to prefer sleeping on my back or sleeping on my left in a fetal position.

What’s “eh” about Frenz Brainband?

There are aspects about the Frenz Brainband that neither thrill me nor disappoint me; they’re just there.

It uses bone conduction

You may be wondering, “If the Brainband wraps around your forehead, how can you hear the audio that emanates from it?” The AI sleep device uses bone conduction, which relies on the the user’s skull to conduct sound to the ear, to get around this issue.

Frenz Brainband

It may be difficult to hear sounds from the Brainband when sleeping in certain positions.
Credit: Joe Maldonado / Mashable

In order to hear the Brainband emanate “full sound,” there must be some pressure applied between the Brainband and your skull. This means it was difficult for me to hear sounds in certain positions, particularly while sleeping on my back. In this posture, most of the pressure is applied to the back of my head, where there isn’t enough exposed skin for bone conduction to do its thing. Sleeping on my side, on the other hand, allowed me to hear the sounds in all their divine glory, thanks to my exposed temples.

It’s worth noting, however, that according to a Frenz rep, you don’t need to fully hear the voice coaching and ambient audio. Just hearing faint sounds from the voice coach and music should be enough to lull you to sleep.

The Smart Alarm feature is cool, but it can be a bother

I’m sure you’ve experienced moments when you’re suddenly awakened by your phone alarm — and it feels like your soul was electrocuted out of slumber. It’s an awful feeling.

Well, the Frenz Brainband has a feature that rectifies this issue. It’s called “Smart Alarm,” and it’s designed to make sure you wake up during the most optimal moment during your sleep stages, so you’re refreshed and ready to go.

I tried this feature, and it does, indeed, leave me feeling revitalized in the morning. My only gripe is that sometimes it will wake you up 10 minutes earlier than your target time. Still, I understand that sometimes that needs to be the case, because it’s that moment that will bring you the most peaceful wakefulness.

You can’t forget to charge it every night!

Considering that the Frenz Brainband is a relatively sleek device, the battery isn’t half bad. It lasts about eight hours on a single charge. However, that means you have to remember to charge it every night before you go to bed.

What I don’t like about Frenz Brainband

There’s plenty I love about the Frenz Brainband, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have flaws.

I want a tighter fit

The Brainband wraps around my forehead with a clasp, but I wish it had some sort of mechanism to tighten the Brainband against my forehead for a more snug fit. This would help the sensors get a better read on my movements and sleep activity. At times, the Brainband shuts off the music and voice coaching prematurely, thinking I’ve fallen asleep, but I’m still awake.

Suspicious hypnosis

I don’t love that the voice coach often starts off by telling users — somewhat hypnotically — that they should use Frenz AI continuously to get the best results.

Frenz Brainband

The Frenz Brainband does have a few flaws, in my opinion.
Credit: Joe Maldonado / Mashable

I understand this may be innocuous, but I can’t help but get this nagging feeling that it’s a subtle form of hypnosis.

Good for iOS, but not Android

When I tested the Frenz Brainband on my iPhone 15 Pro Max, it worked flawlessly. However, on Android, the companion app doesn’t allow the AI to choose the audio and voice coaching on your behalf. It prompts the user to choose from a library for both categories, which takes away from the whole fun of a machine-learning model customizing an optimized sleep program for you.

According to a Frenz rep, this is something they’re working on.

Final thoughts

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the Frenz Brainband does, indeed, help in lulling me to sleep.

It’s difficult, however, to develop a habit of remembering to use it every night. On top of that, you have to make the effort to charge it every day, too. As such, the main challenge that Earable Neuroscience faces with the Frenz Brainband isn’t the AI sleep device itself — it’s consumer compliance. However, finding a way to increase battery life may help (if they ever come out with Frenz Brainband 2).





Source link