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Douglas Capraro Douglas Capraro

Can This Futuristic Brain Stimulation Device Replace Your Coffee and Cocktail?

The idea is that electrodes will deliver a "calm vibe" or an "energy vibe" straight to your brain.

6 Substance

Thync substitutes a caffeine buzz and an alcohol high with a "calm" and "energy" feature using tDCS technology, much like the brain enhancing device Foc.us depicted above. Foc.us

Thync uses tDCS technology, much like the “brain-enhancing” device Foc.us pictured here. Foc.us

Using a concept straight out of science fiction (Philip KDick, to be exact), a start-up called Thync is targeting the caffeine and alcohol markets with technology.  The idea is that instead of getting a jolt of caffeine or a slug of liquor, you’ll just sit back and adjust your Thync headset to either an “energy vibe” or a “calm vibe.”

This may sound outlandish—and it is—but the company has apparently already accumulated $13 million from investors. And it plans to begin distributing its services via a miniaturized Bluetooth-enabled device by next year.

“Shift your state of mind. Conquer more” proclaims the tagline on Thync’s website. According to CEO and co-founder Isy Goldwasser, the gadget will offer “a way for us to overcome our basic limitation as people. It lets us call up our focus, our calm and creativity when we need it.”

Brad Stone, a skeptical Bloomberg Businessweek journalist who had the chance to preview Thync, writes that “the familiar knot of stress in my stomach evaporated” when his cranial nerves were targeted by “specifically calibrated levels of electricity” through electrodes for 12 minutes on the “calm vibe” setting.

Neuroscientists have been using transcranial direct-current stimulation (or tDCS) for years as a way to treat head injuries, enhance memory, or alleviate depression. And Goldwasser says that the market for something like Thync is not as sci-fi inspired as it may seem. “If you can chill out with this device as opposed to having a cocktail,” he argues, “or focus without having another cup of coffee, you are going to do it.” When he started the company in 2011, he even brought in a prop of the memory-erasing device from the Men In Black films to their first meetings, joking: “Now everyone look at this and give me $2 million.”