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While most people drink their morning coffee, biohackers and nootropics users take a pill for the cognitive effects. By specifically choosing which compounds they ingest and monitoring the results, biohackers make specialized and personalized recipes that they feel give peak performance in area like memory or focus. Most nootropics are based around caffeine and B vitamins, as well as natural extracts thought to improve brain function, although formally-reviewed research is sparse.
Nootrobox, a startup founded in 2014 that aims to simplify nootropics and make them more accessible, has learned that every person is different. That means there’s still a fair bit of experimentation involved when it comes to finding the right mix and dosages for each individual. The company already offers nootropics for purchase through its online store, but to make personalized dosages even easier, Nootrobox plans to launch an app for wearables that helps track the effects of nootropics for users. The app is internally codenamed Project Introspect, says Nootrobox CEO Geoffrey Woo.
The app—which would potentially be available on popular wearables such as the Apple Watch and Jawbone devices—would plan to use sensors on wearables to measure the physical effects of nootropics, supplemented with manual logging, to help nootropics users track their optimal usage.
“The end vision is this kind of flywheel, where we have fully-customized personal consumables, which is step one. Step two, collecting all your environmental biometric data via wearables, a software layer. And three, let’s pull in your genomic data and then you have this virtuous cycle that you can constantly tweak,” Woo said.
The end result would be a personalized product based on that data.
The alpha software is currently being tested by Nootrobox employees, and is developed for iOS. Right now, the app is completely manual, tracking energy level and whether the feeling is pleasant or unpleasant. Woo calls the data a “two-dimensional grid of mental states” that also can be tagged to note exercise, other nootropics, or fasting.
“We’re collecting this rich, multi-dimensional data on us, and then we can slice down and start picking out patterns,” Woo said. “What we want to build is the Fitbit for your mind.”
The company is weighing which wearable to launch on, based on the sensors that each brings to the table. Heart rate is a mainstay of most fitness trackers, but deeper analytics like Jawbone’s galvanic skin response (to measure moisture on the skin) make those devices more attractive. Jawbone and Nootrobox are also funded by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, which makes collaboration even more synergistic.
“We’re figuring out sensor capabilities and if we’re going to bet on a platform. We’re not building a wearable day one,” Woo said.
People who wake up and are content with their morning coffee really aren’t the intended consumers for Nootrobox yet. Woo says their customers care about being able to customize their daily doses of brain-stimulating compounds, and request more variation in caffeine dosage sizes.
“Everyone that’s at this initial beachhead is going to be more experimental to begin with,” Woo says.
For instance, employees that test new blends in-house all have their DNA sequenced, so the company can use that data to see how different nootropics might affect different people. Woo himself says his body metabolizes caffeine slowly, so he has varied his intake to be more spread out.
Nootrobox already has one app on the App Store, MMRY, which is a brain game to test cognition. The tracking app is in development now, and Woo says that they aim to launch in late summer or fall.