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Step Into the Future With Grimes’s A.I.-Powered Sleep Sounds

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“I think the technology-driven lack of sleep is a big problem and having widespread mental health effects,” writes C Boucher (better known as the musician Grimes) over email as we discuss her latest project. It’s called “AI Lullaby,” and it’s a scientifically engineered sleep soundscape that just launched on Endel.

It was C (the artist recently announced her new name) who approached Endel’s team of artists and developers about a collaboration after she tried their app, which boasts over two million downloads. “I just appreciated that the app isn’t addictive. It doesn’t keep you up on your phone. Instead it actually helps you sleep,” she says of its A.I.-customized sound environments with functions like Focus, Sleep, and Relaxation. Within the app, users can select a desired mode to match their current activity. Focus, for example, sounds like spacey keyboards and chimes designed to facilitate zoning in to a task. For “AI Lullaby,” C’s vocals float from soothing “aaaaaah…” ranges to an indistinguishable language that sometimes sounds like she’s saying “hi, baby” (the project was inspired, in part, by her experience as a new mom). The level of artificial intelligence that’s in play can be customized via “Real-Time Inputs,” where tracking can be turned on or off for details like current location, heart rate, and light exposure. It’s all meant to help your brain operate at effortless peak performance, something called Endel calls “tech-aided bodily function” in their manifesto.

According to Endel, the ultimate goal is improving global wellbeing. Columbia University’s Department of Psychiatry shared in May that anxiety is a “prime contributor to sleep difficulty.” This direct relationship means that as anxiety rises with political uncertainty, economic unrest, and almost a year of pandemic-related distress, so does insomnia. They suggest a possible benefit from “meditation or ‘mindfulness’ exercises.” The Dalai Lama, often credited with the quote “sleep is the best meditation,” discusses incorporating technology and spiritual practice for a “great contribution for entire humanity” in a 2011 documentary short. A decade later, the concept is mainstream.

“The world really needs this right now. Not just the U.S. with the election cycle, but here we literally just got news that Germany is going into a partial lockdown,” says Endel CEO Oleg Stavitsky on a Zoom call joined by Nadya Yurinova, CMO, from their Berlin headquarters. “We practice mindfulness meditation–but we have to remember that this is a very elitist thing these days.” Beyond the expense of classes, retreats, and apps (a lifetime Endel subscription is $89.99), time is money. “You have to have the luxury to commit that time to meditate every single day. So our approach is something completely different: we create this soundscape that follows you everywhere, and it affects your cognitive state without you having to do anything,” he says. “We’re hopefully democratizing access to this sense of being present–and when you are present, you’re able to notice the beautiful things around you.”

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