You can read my first impressions of the PSiO at CE Week here, but PSiO USA hooked me up with a full PSiO (that’s pronounced sigh-oh) for review. PSiO is marketed as a relaxation tool designed to help your brain let go, which can allow you to reach a meditative state, focus your energy, and possibly help your brain perform better. That’s a pretty tall order for some LEDs and a pair of earbuds, so the real question is, does it work?
Yes it does.
The PSIO looks like an overgrown pair of Lady Gaga sunglasses, with two additions. First are the LED lights built in just above the opaque right and left “lenses”, which flash and fade a rainbow of colors. These block out your view of the world and visual chatter. The second component, the audio from the built in MP3 player in the right arm of the glasses, plays synchronized audio tracks. The combination of audio and visual stimulation (AVS) provides sensory isolation from the outside world, which lets your brain shut off and reach a meditative state.
The combination of light and music are called programs, and PSiO has an online store called PSiOPlanet where you can download additional programs (there are 10 included with your PSiO out of the box). The programs are divided into four categories: Balance (cool colors, soothing music and nature sounds to relax you), Wellness (sleep-inducing and healing), Performance (to help you with memorization/mental performance), and Music (personal light and music shows). For users with photosensitivity such as epilepsy, PSiO also offers a special selection of programs that feature less intense light shows under the name Photosensibility.
During my review, I was traveling internationally, and had to put up with jet lag, too little sleep, and the occasional stressful day because there was just too much to get done and not enough time. There were three programs in particular I found myself listening to repeatedly, and they offered me noticeable improvement in general quality of life by helping me to relax, recharge, and better cope with the stress in my life:
- Je Nous Aime: This was the program I listened to during my CE Week trial, and at just six minute long it was perfect as a quick way to focus my attention and reduce my stress level when working towards a deadline. It features the Buddha Bar lounge music of Claude Challe, synced to a light show that just leaves you feeling energized.
- Joy of Life: Although it’s not specifically listed as a sleep track, I found this relaxing, voice guided track to be a great way to fall asleep at any time—great for resetting my body clock to a new time zone.
- Energy Source: This funky, groovy jazz piece helped me to recharge on those days when I had to just power through too much work on too little sleep.
PSiO is pretty bulky, so you will want to find a relaxed and partially reclined position to keep it firmly on your face. On some programs I kept my eyes open, but I found my eyes closing for the more intense light shows. The included earbuds offer surprisingly rich sound due to their open-backed design, but they are hard plastic with no padding. For a fully immersive experience, I suggest using the included adapter to plug in your own over-ear or isolating earbuds.
To download new programs you need to create an account on the PSiOplanet site. Tracks usually range from $2 to $20, and once you’ve purchased you can download the MP3 file to your computer. PSiO comes with a mini USB port, and shows up like a regular USB flash/thumb drive when plugged into your computer. Simply drag and drop the programs you want onto PSiO and you’re set to go.
The micro USB also serves to charge the PSiO’s battery. With average use of about 30 minutes a day I was able to go about 10 days between recharges, which takes about four hours. The battery meter on my PSiO was generally useless, as it didn’t show any battery drain until the battery was totally dead, but the abundance of USB charging means you’ll never be left with a dead PSiO.
PSiO is available directly from PSiO USA for $399.99 (discounted from the $499.99 MSRP). According to the online store description, every home will soon have one or more PSiO units, but at that price I find that a little hard to believe. I definitely found PSiO’s features valuable, but that’s the same price I’m about to pay for a new iPhone 5S, which does so much more. The interface consists of a small LED screen and hard plastic buttons which recall pre-iPod MP3 players. That’s good for nostalgia, but not quite in line with the expectation of a $400 product.
It’s easy to recommend PSiO for stress relief, relaxation, and general meditation that can help improve the quality of your life. It’s obviously a premium product given the price, but that price may be justified depending on how useful you find it. I can see this being offered somewhere like Hammacher Schlemmer, or as an added service in a spa. Based on the quality of its AVS capabilities PSiO is a five-apple product, but the price and dated interface lose it one apple.
Provides: Meditation, relaxation, and self-improvement via Audio Visual Stimulation (AVS)
Developer: PSiO USA