In a windowless conference room at Thync, a secretive startup in Los Gatos, Calif., I recently tried what may be Silicon Valley’s strangest new product in years. The company’s engineers carefully placed a prototype device with two electrodes on my head and asked if I wanted the “energy vibe” or the “calm vibe.” I chose the latter, and for the next 12 minutes, they applied specifically calibrated levels of electricity to target my cranial nerves. When the skin under the pads started to tighten, I lowered the intensity setting on an accompanying iPhone app. It all seemed crazy—until halfway through the session, when the familiar knot of stress in my stomach evaporated.
Thync announced on Oct. 8 that it’s raised $13 million from investors, including well-heeled Khosla Ventures, to mine the intersection of neuroscience and consumer electronics. Sometime next year, the company will begin selling a miniaturized, Bluetooth-enabled neurosignaling device, along with the seductive, controversial proposition that customers can program their state of mind. “This is an avenue for people to call up their best stuff on demand,” says Isy Goldwasser, Thync’s chief executive officer and co-founder. “It’s a way for us to overcome our basic limitation as people. It lets us call up our focus, our calm, and creativity when we need it.”