The Best New iPhone App Lets You Hack Your Dreams

This dream catcher is different.

The app, Shadow, is still in the early stages of development, but it’s designed to help you remember, share and better understand your dreams. It’s the brainchild of Hunter Lee Soik and, after several years of development, it’s almost ready to launch. The beta version of the app, for iOS 8, will be out before the end of the year, with a full release in early 2015. You can download the alpha prototype now.

Shadow wakes users with a built-in alarm clock. Next, it prompts them to speak or text their dream into the app and tag it with keywords. Based on the keywords, the app suggests an image and encourages users to privately or publicly publish their dreams to a global feed. The Shadow algorithm goes through the database of published dreams, looking for patterns. It identifies trends in users’ own dreams and connects them to others who share similar experiences.

“The database is the most interesting thing about this project,” Soik tells Mic. “We want to apply some pretty big algorithms to surfacing dream content and connecting you to people in your address book — friends, family, and acquaintances who share your dream types.” Shadow’s database already holds over 5,000 uploaded dreams.

Image credit: Shadow

Soik is an interesting figure. He used to work as a freelance creative director for clients like Italian Vogue and Kanye West. He flew around the world, spending time in Berlin, Los Angeles and New York. He didn’t sleep much. When one of Soik’s projects wrapped, he finally had time to sleep more than a few hours a night and, for the first time in a long time, he dreamed. It made him rethink his priorities. He decided to launch a company, Shadow, to leverage big data to better understand our subconscious. That was two years ago, and today Shadow is almost ready to launch.

The data set Shadow is generating is already interesting and could become valuable. Research shows that dreams can have a significant effect on our waking lives and be predictors in some cases of future outcomes. During the Israel-Gaza war last year, there was a pattern in the way people dreamed about war, Soik says. As the database grows, Shadow will be able to better understand each individual and test whether it can help people improve their lives.

“You can really have a significant outcome on what your future life can be like by working through your dreams,” Soik says. Research shows that when we dream, often during REM sleep, brain activity (pictured below) is at a level similar to what it is in our waking lives.

Some psychologists see dreams as a way to unlock our potential. Shadow adviser and Harvard psychologist Deirdre Barrett found that dreaming helps us problem-solve. Barrett conducted an experiment in which college students selected a homework problem to focus on each night before going to sleep. She found that half of the students dreamed about the problem and a quarter of them had a dream that contained the answer. One big issue is that as many as 95 percent of all dreams are forgotten after waking up.

“[Recording dreams] is really foreign,” Soik says. “It shouldn’t be. Like anything, it takes time and energy, but before you know it, you’re quite good.”

The upcoming release is the next step in Soik’s effort to build the first-ever database of dreams. Soik says that as use of the app increases, Shadow might offer a lucid dreaming course within it that could help people gain greater awareness of, and control over, their dreams and life. Research suggests it’s not so far-fetched.

“[By focusing on their dreams], people are able to…listen to themselves more and make positive changes to their lives,” says Soik. “We want to offer tools for people to shape their own path.”

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