Melon: A wearable to track concentration, maybe sleep

By Brian Dolan
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MelonLast June an LA-based startup called Axio finished building prototypes of an EEG headband with built-in audio neurofeedback, Bluetooth connectivity, an analytic engine and companion smartphone app that aimed to help people find ways to better concentrate.

"We want to revolutionize how people interact with their brains," Axio co-founder Arye Barnehama told MobiHealthNews in an email at the time.

The startup planned to launch a Kickstarter in mid-June 2012 as a way to crowdfund is first run on its wearable headband. At the time, Kickstarter was very picky about working with companies that had any kind of medical, health, or fitness-related angle, and Axio's campaign didn't come to be.

That is, of course, until a few weeks ago, when Arye and the team at Axio changed their name to Melon and launched on Kickstarter. In the intervening year Kickstarter must have loosened up its rules in the face of overwhelming success from other wearable devices launching on competitor site Indiegogo -- like the Misfit Shine last year, and more recently, the Scanadu Scout.

The Melon campaign achieved its $100,000 goal within 60 hours and has since surpassed $268,000. As of Wednesday morning, it has one day left in its crowdfunding campaign.

Barnehama says at launch Melon will be a fairly open-ended "cognitive enhancement" platform. Users will put on the Melon headband and start a session of monitoring focus levels for a given activity. Once the device is on, the aim is to add tags into the app's analytics engine about what activity you are doing and how you are feeling: "math homework, coffee shop, sad," for example. During the session the Melon app tracks your focus level based on an analysis of your EEG and asks you do to quick things to see if they might help you maintain more consistent focus -- like taking a quick walk or a five minute break. The device can then measure if that tip was effective for that particular user and become more personalized in its suggestions as time goes on.

Perhaps most exciting about the Melon launch is its willingness to work with developers from the get go. The Kickstarter campaign shows people using Melon for all kinds of activities and Barnehama noted the important of concentration in everything from studying to painting and sports to meditation. He believes there will be strong interest from the developer community to create apps for specific use cases.

"Sleep is one example," he said. "Sleep is often measured using EEG and other companies have tried that -- like Zeo which was not able to continue -- so sleep is an area that developers are really excited to work on using the Melon platform."

Barnehama says Melon is designed to be comfortable and "you definitely can sleep with it on", but admits that sleep is "such a difficult thing to integrate a device into" and that might be why the company itself isn't pursuing it. Still, the void left by Zeo's departure could certainly drum up a good amount of interest as Barnehama noted.

"We wanted to build something broad and not go too specific in the beginning because this is such new technology," he said. "We want to let the platform get more specific over time. Melon can help people that need a little bit of understanding around how to focus and how to understand their everyday life a little bit better using data about themselves."

"There are many ways it could go later."

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