This startup wants to create a global database of dreams

This startup wants to create a global database of dreams

By ANIRUDH VOHRA | | 6 February, 2016
Shadow, a New York-based startup, is building the world’s largest dream database.
A New York-based startup has designed a mobile application to help users record their dreams and contribute them to a global ‘dream database’. Anirudh Vohra speaks to the founders of this firm.

Lying in bed in the middle of the night, he woke with a start to see a menacing dark shadow in the corner of his room. Heart pounding in his ears, he tried to scream. But when he tried to open his mouth, it was impossible. He was unable to utter a sound — in fact, to his horror he found himself paralysed and unable to move. Finally after what seemed an eternity, but was probably no more than a few minutes, he found himself able to move again. When he looked, the menacing dark shadow had disappeared.

Scary, right? But this is something that happens to a lot of us, and quite frequently to a few. The problem arises when we wish to consult someone about analysing our dreams, but cannot as we don’t recall the dream in exact terms. Now think of the exact opposite: you wake up from a really good and happy dream, so much so that the world seems brighter and the day seems longer. But again you cannot remember what the dream was exactly. As per studies, a dream can say a lot about a person’s mental state.

To help us recapture our dreams, and tap into this vast resource, Shadow, a New York-based startup, is building the world’s largest dream database. A vast majority of dreams — around 95% — go unremembered if they are not recorded within minutes of waking. This is what the Shadow app enables users to do. The makers of the app want to let users capture and decode their dream content, thereby helping them understand themselves better.

“There are many devices out there that claim to teach us more about ourselves through data, but what does my step count really say about me as a person?” asked Hunter Lee Soik, co-founder of Shadow. “Our app moves beyond quantified self to ‘understood self’, making it possible for us to capture and analyse dream data and answer questions like, what do we dream about during a thunderstorm? Or, do celebrities really dream differently than the rest of us?”

In the past, Lee Soik has worked with the Council of Fashion Designers of America on their 49th award show; with Stella McCartney on the concept and development of two iPad applications; and most recently with Kanye West and Jay Z for their Watch The Throne tour.

At its heart the app is an alarm clock, but with advanced features. Simply tell it when you go to bed and the time you wish to wake up. Come morning, and it will use a series of escalating alarms. The gradual increase in volume not only makes the waking up process easier, but also helps you better remember your dreams by taking you through your “hypnopompic” state (the transition from asleep to wakefulness) much slower than a standard alarm clock.

Once you’re awake, it immediately prompts you to record your dreams. You can speak or text your dream content into the app. If you do use the audio feature, the app automatically transcribes it into text format, pulling out and highlighting key words.  From there on, this content is transferred to a secure server where this information is anonymously organised, and the global data is studied to identify major themes and trends found to be occurring in our dreams. 

If users find recalling their dreams tricky, they can opt to answer a series of 5-10 questions generated by the Shadow app, which are designed to jog your memory. The whole process takes less than five minutes, and once the data is recorded you decide how far and wide to share it.

“Tying the dream capture process into the sleep daily cycle makes it easy to visualise dream life and tap into the dream patterns trending across the world,” explains Shadow’s co-founder Jason Carvalho. “It captures and decodes dream content to help people understand themselves better. But at the same time we’re working behind the scenes to organise all this data into the largest database of human dream knowledge in the world.”

Jason looks after all aspects of operations and marketing in this firm, including growth tactics and revenue strategy, besides overseeing marketing strategy. The recent recipient of the Business in Vancouver’s Top 40 under-40 2012-2013 Award, Jason was previously the Chief Tactician at a lucrative web business called

This particular startup unit even took a different route to fund the project when it was in its nacent stage. A crowdfunding campaign was launched on Kickstarter, a platform for raising funds through donations collected online. And the campaign proved to be highly successful as they managed to collect around $60,000 within a month of setting up shop.

Recently, the company tied up with Baboomi standalone alarm clocks and began building 200 limited-edition wake-up alarm clocks to celebrate the project’s final week. By combining the app with the Baboomi standalone alarm clock, users can access an enhanced dream app experience.

The Baboomi collaboration adds speakers to the Baboomi alarm system, which sits under your pillow and transmits gentle, customisable vibrations to wake you up slowly and comfortably. It also will accept audio recordings of your dream, which can be directly added to the database, making the technology accessible to users with or without a smartphone. The alarm clock is available in a sleek black design that has been modified to sync flawlessly with the Shadow dream app, making it better than ever before, its designers say.

The app will be available to all iOS users by the end of July this year, while Android users will need to wait a few more months. The company in its beta run has already created a database of 10,000 people and their dreams are regularly being uploaded on the database.

In the words of John Lennon, a dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is the reality. So, does this mean a dream database will create a parallel reality?


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