Robrt L. Pela

Perchance to dream

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The heck with leaving your dreams up to chance – a new iPhone application called “Dream: ON” proposes to maximize the entertainment value of our sleeping state by dictating what we dream about. Whee!

The app is the brainchild of British psychologist, Richard Wiseman, professor at the University of Hertfordshire. Currently in a testing phase, the application offers prerecorded soundscapes that dictate an aural setting for your dream, which is nudged along by an iPhone placed near your bed. The iPhone monitors your movements while you sleep, and cues these preselected audio cues once you enter REM sleep (the deepest stage of sleep), the time when you are most likely to have episodic dreams. How these background sounds produce particular stories isn’t explained on the invention’s website, but, since its launch at the Edinburgh International Science Festival in March, the app has received upwards of 400,000 downloads, and has collected data from nearly a quarter of a million dreams.

For now, “Dream: ON” offers a limited menu of soundscapes, such as “Into the City,” “Peaceful Garden,” and “Space Shuttle.” The app prompts you to “send in a report” about where those particular sleep soundtracks take you for analysis by Wiseman and his dream-time colleagues. (“You can also post your dream on Twitter,” Wiseman suggests in the helpful – and unintentionally hilarious – instruction video that appears on the company’s website,

One can’t help but ponder the app’s better uses. Bankers plagued by nightmares about the failing economy might program their phones to force them into happy dreams about giant boxes of cash falling from the sky. Stressed mothers with colicky babies could arrange for dreams of their former lives as disco-crazed bachelor girls. Overworked desk employees might program an office revenge-fantasy involving punching out the boss and storming off to a better career.

A man can dream, can’t he?  

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