LAS VEGAS — Focus at Will is a new streaming music service that can more than triple a listener's attention span while studying or working under deadlines. But it's no ordinary collection of tracks. Each composition is designed to keep the brain engaged past the point of around 20 minutes, when people's minds begin to wander.
Blame it on the limbic system, Will Henshall, Focus at Will's co-founder, told TechNewsDaily at a CES 2013 reception for startups here. The limbic system is the part of the brain that is in constant interrupt mode looking for food, sex and danger, Henshall said.
By playing music that soothes this part of the brain, people can focus on a task for as long as 100 minutes, according to Henshall's research, conducted by Bowker market research and the psychology department at the University of California at Los Angeles. But the usual playlists from Spotify, Pandora and other sources won't do the trick.
"More than 99 percent of commercially available music distracts people from what they're doing," Henshall said. Thousands of specially designed music selections, all of which are instrumental, are available from Focus at Will's free cloud-based library. Music is organized into genres, including jazz, electronica and classical.
But not every type of music will work equally well for each listener. First of all, the system is effective for two out of every three individuals, Henshall said. Further, it's essential that the listener chooses a type of music that is unfamiliar.
Each piece of music is sequenced over five phases, so that just when the unfamiliarity wears off, the system changes the music. Selections last 100 minutes, the maximum attention span based on Henshall's research.
Focus at Will is currently available online and will soon be released as an app for both iOS and Android.