Sept. 8, 2013 -- App Name: Focus@will
Available Platforms: Desktop, iOS, Android
Price: Free for guest users up to 5 hours per channel; $3.99/mo for subscribers
What does this app do?: Music engages people in a number of ways; it energizes, inspires, and entertains, for example. And there are a number of apps designed to deliver you all of those attention-getting tunes.
Focus@will, however, developed by musician and songwriter Will Henshall, attempts something most music apps do not -- it provides music specifically designed to help you focus.
Henshall, whose music you may remember from the British pop soul band Londonbeat, landed on the idea to develop the app when he noticed people often reading or working while listening to music.
"It's a human thing," he said. "We tend to listen to music while we do things."
But while most commercially produced music is created to entertain you, Henshall asked himself whether there was another kind of music that could help people concentrate. And so he began to investigate how to harness the power of music to help people while they work.
After two and a half years of research and development, which included the help of two neuroscientists at UCLA, 200 alpha testers, and 20,000 beta testers, Henshall created foucs@will this past May.
The app engages the part of the brain known as the limbic system, the area that stays on the lookout for danger and other distractions. Each piece of music in the app is engineered and arranged in a way to calm this system, allowing you to concentrate for longer periods of time and work in a more focused way.
Focus@will is designed, Henshall says, "to engage the brain enough, but not too much."
The secret sauce in the app, Henshall says, is in the way the music is put together; using something called phased sequencing, the developers reedited, remixed, and remastered the music, all of it all instrumental, paying attention to things like speed, recording style and intensity in order to enhance people's ability to maintain their concentration.
For most people who use the app (there are approximately 300,000 users as of this article), the results have proven significant, according to Henshall.
In his research, Henshall said he discovered the average person can concentrate for approximately 20 minutes before finding themselves distracted. Those who used the app, on average, increased the amount of time they could remain focused by 400 percent, or 80 to 100 minutes, according to his findings.
Is it easy to install?: Users can download the app from the iTunes or Google Play store or go to the website and launch it from there. The app provides up to 60 minutes of music for free for guest users and up to five hours of free music on each channel for those who sign up with a personal account. A subscription to the service will grant you access to the entire library as well as customizable features.
Should I try it?: If you're part the population of people who like to listen to music while you work, then you should give focus@will a whirl. But remember, the music in the app is designed to be played in the background and should be used while you work, not for any other reason.
"In order for the system to work," Henshall said, "We want you to set it and forget it."