Handheld Technology

Tre Azam: How Brain Tech can make us mentally strong

Tre Azam is more outspoken and wields far more expletives than your average therapist. “I started off as businessman,” he explains but ended up as a trauma therapist because someone “showed me a technique that I thought was stupid” but “I found worked”. This was Thought Field Therapy (TFT), and although he says he coached people in war zones and set up a London private practice, he was not really cut out for the job as he was prone to telling patients they were “moaners”.

Eventually Azam, who starred in series three of the UK’s The Apprentice and has run several consultancies along with London production studio Treite Labs, thought: why speak to one person when you can deliver the same result to a large number via video?

So he launched MyndPlay which combines its own headset – utilising a single sensor NeuroSky chip – with, what the website describes as “the world’s first mind controlled media player”. This offers a wide range of apps, which, amongst other things, help individuals gain mental resilience.

Azam is fun and opinionated but his views aren’t for everyone. “I grew up with 170 cousins – I’m not joking,” he says, “you got every kind of human” and “the nasty ones did well”.  His philosophy is that “poop and a propeller will eventually collide” and you have to shake it off and get over it. “You can’t do it in an airy fairy tree hugger way”.

The government talks about trolling and bullying: “but in all your schooling did anyone ever teach you how to deal with bullying? Or rejection? Or failing?” He answers his own question with the statistic that 99% of people he asks “say no”.

Azam believes the solution is to “train people to desensitise” their emotions. To illustrate this he blends stories about his own child rearing techniques (he has three children) with descriptions of the apps that MyndPlay offers. One is example is an “uncomfortable” first-person video for women, which showcases three different attacks to help women prepare for a real-life situation.

“I say to my daughters if someone puts their hand over your mouth, don’t try to scream, bite them,” he says. The trouble is when most people are confronted by a difficult situation they have no experience of, they freeze and don’t know what to do. If you can acclimatise people to a negative set of events in advance - and show them how their brain responds - they will be ready to deal with anything. He uses the analogy of the “rollercoaster of life” if you’re blindfolded it is going to be significantly worse.

This is only a part of what MyndPlay offers though. The company also produces a wide range of other apps. These include brand experiences (“we can engage the community through creditable linkage”), sports training (“there is a certain area beyond which it is all mental… and where the steely eyed mind comes into its own”) and research through universities such as UCLA and Birkbeck. “I sometimes think we do too much,” Azam concedes.

Over the next six months, the company intends to build a new headband which will comprise of the standard ‘dry sensor’ NeuroSky chip on the forehead and a ‘wet sensor’ EEG chip on the back of the head. This will give more targeted feedback to users in a wearable form. “In the last five years we’ve learnt more than we have in 5000 years of neuroscience. Neuroscientists don’t know as much as we do in the industry,” suggests Azam, who believes things are likely to progress at a phenomenal rate in future.

“It pisses me off when they talk about brain training and moving things with your mind,” he concludes “how lazy do you want humanity to become? Improving people is the benefit of this technology… rather than just mind controlled cars.”


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