lumenate – the light and sound experience that induces hallucinations

Have you ever wanted to delve into the world of psychedelics without taking any risks?  Or dreamt of tripping without the long-lasting effects? With the new app from UK based tech start-up company Lumenate you can do just that with nothing more than your phone.

Let me introduce to you Jay Conlon and Tom Galea – the masterminds behind a light and sound experience that engages the mind, body and soul. Call them what you will – mad scientists/ crazy inventors/ plain insane (they’re all true), between them they’ve walked the length of New Zealand (a breezy 3000 km), ice climbed in the Alps, been held up at gunpoint in Mexico and driven a beaten up Chevy Express Van from Canada to Chile. Adventure and the quest for freedom runs through their veins so it’s no wonder their business venture together would reach for something more fulfilling.

Over the last year, Jay and Tom have immersed themselves in neuroscience, coding, mechanical engineering and electronic research from their Bristol based home/Lumenate HQ. They’ve been working closely with researchers from Imperial College and Sussex University and have spent hundreds of hours interviewing people and recording EEG scans of their own brains in order to develop their unique stroboscopic light, powerful enough to work with up to 30 people. 

Tom and Jay at the summit of an ice climbing adventure

Everything was going just as planned. Unlike so many start-ups, Jay and Tom were incredibly lucky and hadn’t experienced many hiccups. Testing had gone well and the prototype had an incredible reaction from leading professionals and friends alike. Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, Head of the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College said “I really enjoyed the mental holiday gifted me by the Lumenate Crew. It was wild, trippy and fun.. Oh! The power of altered states!” Just as they’d released the final product and they had just run their first ever, sold out, public group session, the unprecedented happened.

COVID-19 hit and like so many small businesses, Lumenate’s future was suddenly in question.They watched everything they had worked so hard to achieve disappear as venues closed and gatherings were banned, rendering their new shiny light useless (at least for now). It was a react and adapt scenario. In just a matter of weeks, the pair had come up with a way to turn their hardware into software for a first-of-its-kind mobile app. Soon to be accessible from anywhere in the world, the app integrates all of the core features of the original product, offering a safe, scientific and accessible method of inducing a deep meditative state. But does it really work, I hear you asking… 

I was lucky enough to try the experience when it was still in its prototype phase. I was faced with a complex series of wires, connected to LEDs attached to a board which were powered by code on a laptop. I did 2 tests; the first a shorter, music led test more for fun than anything but to give you an idea of what to expect. I was sceptical it would work but within seconds I started seeing all different shades of red and orange, fractal patterns started forming and as the flash speed increased, so did the intensity of the visuals. Changes in the music brought about new colours and shapes, creating ever more intricate and complex patterns. The second was a 7 minute session listening to white noise whilst wearing a brain scanner to monitor activity.

I felt focussed, relaxed and drawn into this world I’d created using light, sound and mind as tools. I wasn’t aware of how much time was passing, who or where I was. I felt calm letting go of everyday struggles, my body felt lighter and my arms and legs tingled with a familiar buzz I was so used to experiencing when tripping, only when the lights stopped and I opened my eyes everything was normal again. I was left with a sense of clarity, like I’d hit a reset button and I could understand where to channel my creative energy.

Dr Ben Sessa and Dr Chloe Sakal during a group prototype demo

Despite having to alter their original plan, Jay and Tom believe Lumenate’s raison d’être has not changed. They still want to empower people to live freer, more fulfilling lives. They hope that the flexibility of the app will meet the challenges of these turbulent times and, after conducting a feasibility study, are sure that this change of direction is worth investing in.

In order to launch this project, Lumenate is looking to Kickstarter to raise £70 000 for the app development and operating costs. The founders are hoping that this campaign will also provide a  lifeline for fellow creators, makers and venues who have been hit hardest by the pandemic. They estimate around 70% of their fundraising goal, once they reach their initial target, will go directly into giving back to creatives and communities, enabling them to continue inspiring others. On top of app access, as the campaign progresses Lumenate and its creators will be releasing exciting limited edition rewards, fromart prints to inspiration packs to an illustration of your experience, in exchange for backer’s pledges.

The Kickstarter launches on Monday and, if they reach their target, the app will be ready to download from July 2020. It’ll work as a subscription-based service, where users can sign up now via Kickstarter to either 2, 6 or 12 months for £10, £30 or £60 respectively. As an introductory offer Jay and Tom are giving 500 curious early birds the option of testing it out for just £18 (6 months) or £36 (1 year) so get in there quick to grab a deal! 

As a tech start-up company, Tom and Jay’s ability to adapt to the current situation has shown initiative and fight in a fragile economic climate and I’m sure this is just the start of an exciting journey for Lumenate. Once this is all over, Bristol-based group sessions will resume but for now, their focus is on development of the app, achieving their Kickstarter goal and ensuring their business remains afloat amongst the chaos. Even the smallest contribution to their Kickstarter will put them one step closer to reaching their target so if this takes your interest, get involved and spread the word far and wide!

If you’d like to find out more information tune in on Tuesday at 13:15 as Tom gives Noisily Festival of Music and Arts a half hour presentation followed by a Q&A about the neuroscience behind their powerful altered state. Just head to the Noisily Facebook page. 




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