Han Dirkx, AlphaBeats
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A biofeedback technology to release the modern world from stress: AlphaBeats has built a system that uses a person’s favourite music to relax their brain. Based on real-time monitoring of brain and heart activity, an algorithm enables a slight modification of the music, enticing the brain to go into an “alpha mode” and relax.

AlphaBeats claims it can guide your brain into the alpha mode in just 10 minutes. Alpha stands for alpha waves, waves produced when your brain is relaxed. AlphaBeats has been working inside the Eindhoven based HighTechXL accelerator, for some months now, and used XL Day for their first public announcement. “We are living in a world that seems to have forgotten how to relax”, said AlphaBeats CMO Han Dirkx, on stage at XL Day. “Our brain and nervous system live in a perpetual state of arousal and stimulation. And we hardly give ourselves the opportunity to truly relax.” Innovation Origins spoke with AlphaBeats CEO Bert-Jan Woertman.

What’s the problem you are dealing with?

It’s all about this disease of modern times: stress. Just for the fun of it, we recently did a quick web search for ‘relax’. It confirms what we all already know. Our Google search came up with 891,000,000 responses. 891,000,000! This number and a quick scan of the results tell me that we are desperately looking for ways to unplug, unwind and reconnect with ourselves. And all together, we may be going about it the wrong way. But at the same time, it’s hard not to fall into the stress trap. We are surrounded by distractions like our smartphones and social media. In the words of T.S. Eliot, we find ourselves ‘distracted from distraction by distraction.’ With more and more of the world’s population suffering from stress-related conditions, it’s 
clear that we must all be more proactive in fighting stress.

Yes, we can recognize that. So, what is your solution?

Music has a powerful effect on the mind, helping us relax and unwind to cope with the turbo-speed pace of life. Listening to your favourite tunes puts you in a good mood but listening to “normal” music only goes so far to relieve stress. 

AlphaBeats enhances the relaxation effect, so you can really relax, even when experiencing high-stress levels. We have the technology to counter stress and bring balance back to your life. Using technology developed at Philips, AlphaBeats combines music augmented with neurofeedback. Simply put, AlphaBeats amplifies the relaxation effect of music. Using AlphaBeats regularly over a period of time changes your brain’s reactions to the world around you. Using our patented biofeedback solution, you learn to guide your brainwaves to the desired state – relaxation – by listening to your own favourite music.

Tell us more about the technology

Our product measures real-time brain activity with an electroencephalogram (EEG) that analyses your brainwave patterns associated with stress. Also, biofeedback through your heart rate variability or breath can be used. As you listen and relax, AlphaBeats measures this activity, gently increasing the quality of the music enticing you to relax a little more, and more and more. Combining the two enables you to slow down and quickly reach a state of deep relaxation.

Important to say that this is not something we just imagined. Our solution has been scientifically validated in four years of PhD research by Marian Dekker at Tilburg University.

Do you need a special device for these analyses?

For now, all you need is an app you can download on your smartphone. It measures the breathing of the user and very soon it will also show your heart rate variability and after that an EEG that will show brain activity. This allows us to ‘see’ how tense someone is. Based on these real-time measurements, our patented algorithm adapts your own favourite music in such a way that your brain reacts with relaxation. We can get heart rate and EEG from coupling with smart wearables like watches and headsets.

Ok, don’t blame me, but I am a fan of Arctic Monkeys. How would they sound using AlphaBeats?

Based on the bio and neurofeedback, the audio frequency of your music will be adjusted. Depending on how relaxed or stressed you are, the music is adapted. The best thing – even for an Arctic Monkeys fan – is that you may not hear the difference yourself, but your brain does. In this way it learns implicitly, so without conscious clues, to relax.

You just started. How do you plan to conquer the world?

We want to start testing with the first large group of interested people in January. About 300 people – that’s 82% of the people we have asked – have indicated that they would like to participate and think with us about developing the app and the user experience. After that, we want to grow quickly through these ambassadors, worldwide. We think this is feasible. People suffer from stress and are looking for solutions. The mindfulness market has been growing tremendously for years. We have a brand new solution. And because we don’t need our own hardware, we can grow very fast.

Our ultimate goal is that we help people relax easily and quickly in the hustle and bustle of everyday life and come back to themselves, wherever and whenever they want. Now, too many people go on for too long and that causes all kinds of problems that start small, but get bigger and bigger. Businesswise, our ultimate goal is a partnership with Spotify and Apple Music and wearables like Apple Watch, Fitbit and Muse. Think of ‘AlphaBeats inside’.