Nadeem Kassam worked in entertainment before founding health-tracking wristwatch maker Basis Science. Now he’s combining the industries with BioBeats, a startup that converts your vital signs into custom-tailored music to keep you meditating, running or fighting a disease. Today BioBeats announced $650,000 in seed funding from actor Will Smith, music manager Scooter Braun, angel Kevin Colleran, and more.
After eight years in development and $20 million in funding, Basis launched earlier this year to bring a plethora of health sensors to our bodies. But just because Kassam started Basis doesn’t mean he’ll favor it in his new venture. BioBeats will be device-agnostic, pulling in quantified-self health data from any phone, FitBit, FuelBand, UP, or other sensor willing to work with it. These devices are becoming more and more common, so Kassam tells me he asked himself, “What’s next? Once everyone is wearing sensors, how will they change our lives and what types of tech will be necessary?”
Then Kassam got a pitch from David Plans, his future co-founder. Plans had almost died because of a stress-related illness, and he was determined to help himself and others get more in tune with their bodies. This mini-documentary tells the story of how Plans convinced Kassam it was time for us to get something inspiring out of all the health info we’re collecting.
The idea behind BioBeats is that people need encouragement to stay engaged with their wellness regimens. So it’s built a platform for collecting and analyzing physiological signs from our wearables. The plan is to work with musicians and other entertainers to create “adaptive media”, a term Kassam coined that means “media that reacts in real time to the body’s environment and vital signs.”
So if you’re running and BioBeats detects you need a rest, it can slow down the song. BioBeats will go beyond music, too. “Imagine a horror movie that uses the sensors all around you to tell how scared you are in that moment to adjust the music, the lighting, and the scenery to give you the maximum scare.” I’m most excited about how BioBeats could keep me from falling asleep while meditating. If my devices detect my breathing has changed because I’m dozing off, BioBeats could swap out the soothing sounds for something that will alert but not distract me.
Kassam hopes that “we can engage people with media to get them to monitor themselves with biometrics.” To pursue this dream, BioBeats secured the $650,000 seed funding from Smith, Justin Bieber manager Scooter Braun, and Colleran, as well as Ken Hertz (entertainment lawyer), Mark Beaven (CEO of artist management company AAM), Damon Wayans (actor), Cantora Records (record label), Justin Boreta (musician), ENIAC Ventures, Zhen Fund, and angel investor Gotham Chopra. Kassam tells me “I took a bit more money than I set out to get because of the deep interest from all these partners.”
Having Hollywood on board could help it build a roster of entertainers willing to pioneer adaptive media, and turn their fans onto healthtech. One day, BioBeats might be able to inject an extended drum solo or extra chorus into your favorite Bieber jam to help you hit your target heart rate while you sprint. The money, meanwhile, has helped BioBeats to hire Kristin Shine, M.D., as Chief Medical Officer. If this is all starting to sound like Star Trek to you, you’re not the only one.
BioBeats is starting with a few experiments. Its first product, Pulse, came out a few months ago. Hold your finger over the iPhone camera and it detects your heartbeat then plays music according to what genre will match your activity level. Soon it will release BioMuse, which builds whole playlists of songs based on your body’s signals.
Eventually, though, it wants to build a suite of products that embody Kassam’s vision “to use entertainment to facilitate the wellness process.” This includes a consumer iOS and Android app that won’t just pick songs or genres based on your metrics and emotions, but actually generate new music just for you from a collection of samples. Meanwhile, BioBeats is planning a clinical app that could be used in hospitals.
BioBeats could make money from selling its consumer apps, but is also exploring data-based business models where insurance companies and others in the medical industry might pay to understand more about the connection between quantified-self data, mood, and staying healthy. And if BioBeats can be proven to actually be an effective form of clinical therapy, people might be willing to cough up sizable sums for preventative care rather than pay an arm and a leg once to get better once they’re sick.
There’s certainly a chance that BioBeats can’t really produce beloved entertainment out of health data, or make serious advance in using sound to promote wellness. But if it succeeds, it could make wearable health devices more mainstream by layering an additional value-add on top of just knowing how many steps you took or your heartbeats per minute. The more sensors we wear, the more data we collect, the better we understand ourselves, and the bigger opportunity we have to take control of our well-being.
Kassam concludes “The power to improve health care lies in each of us, in our collective heart.”