Thoughts on the 'Secret Sauce' policy


Hi, I don’t what I have to say to be regarded as some entitled fanboi rage diatribe. My intent is to start a conversation about the current privacy policy around the Muse App algorithms. I’ve been using the app for about a week now and I am see some measurable effect but not quite in the way I expected. For instance I’ve been able to consistently increase my muse stats (no of birds, calm points etc) over time. However, the in app sounds don’t seem to have any bearing on my inner states from moment to moment. Sometime I can feel ‘in the zone’ and the feedback sounds flair up. Then sometimes I am starting to loose focus and get caught up in inner dialogue, and I’m hearing birds tweeting. It seems that over time this averages out as my scores are up and I am getting better meditation sessions both qualitatively and quantitatively, which brings me to my point…

I am seeing a measurable effect, but an effect in what precisely? I’ve trawled the forums and when the question is raised about the app algorithms, the stock answer, in a very polite way, is “We don’t discuss this, it’s our secret sauce”. I respect Muses’s right to privacy in this matter but would like to register my thoughts on why I see this as counter-productive and at odds with the ethos of the muse product as a whole.

So there’s no doubt that the Muse system is of a very high build quality. You can just tell the chipset used in the headband is pukka in the way the bluetooth connections to IOS are very stable and fast. A lot of my of bluetooth gear is very at awkward at connecting - I think of it as the passive aggressive radio stack. It’s clear that the Muse bluetooth stack is spot on 10/10. Also, It looks like the hardware is gaining some acceptance in the research community which gives me a lot of confidence, The open SDK is fantastic, I managed to get Python receiving events streaming over OSC in less than half an hour by following the online tutorials. I’m sure there is going to be a rich eco system of software applications in the medium to long term.

So what we’ve got here is a high tech eco-system, with high quality hardware that is ‘approved’ of by the research community yet accessible as consumer electronics. I don’t want to seem to speak in hyperbole but that is an outstanding phenomenon. I’ve been into the concept of quantified self for a while, through fighting a neurological and endocrine disorder called (ME/CFS) Myalgic Encephalomielitis, but this is the most exciting tech thing I have come across in my healing journey.

So, for me, claiming that the app alogrithm is ‘secret sauce’ just seems totally at odds to what this rich open eco-system of science and tech is about. The rest of the muse system comes across as so professional and for want of a better word ‘sciency’. The ‘secret sauce’ meme just comes across as a snake oil tactict (I’m sure it’s not and intentions are most honourable). Surely if there is IPR issues, these would be best dealt with using copyright and patent law. In short, it’s just a bit embarrassing :wink:


My experience too…


Using the Muse in a music project via the fantastic SDK gave me results that were consistent with varying brain activity and brain wave type. My experience with the app has been the same as yours. If Muse opened the process to outside review and improvement, I think the app results will only get better. One problem is that there is no objective way to quantify results. It all depends on the subjective feedback of the user.


RE intellectual property: It is not clear that either copyright or patent would protect a ‘secret recipe’ effectively. Even if one or the other did provide protection, it would be expensive to enforce. ‘Special sauces’ and ‘secret family recipes’ are, I think, commonly protected as “trade secrets”. Even if someone reverse engineers them they can maintain their commercial mystique.

Having said that, the Muse developers could probably safely reveal more about the processing, at least in general terms. What is being monitored and/or compared to what? - - - multiple frequencies, magnitude variation from measure norm, rate of change, …?

Like many other users, I have found the basic Muse app interesting but confusing. My subjective experience of being ‘captured’ by a passing thought correlates with rising noise from the app, but I have no clear sense of when I get ‘birds’. Of course, maybe that’s the point: When you’re relaxed in the moment, the second-order you - - the you observing yourself observing your breath - - has disappeared.