The NovaDreamer is probably the most famous of all lucid dream machines, namely because it was created by Dr Stephen LaBerge and his team at The Lucidity Institute.
The original mask was discontinued in 2004, and is only available now second-hand (eg, eBay). The new model, The NovaDreamer II, is long overdue for release. (Update May 2012 from TLI: "After 5 years of testing, we are ready to release the NovaDreamer to the world. Stay tuned.")
The NovaDreamer lucid dream mask works by detecting Rapid Eye Movement (REM) while you are asleep and dreaming. The mask then flashes a series of lights through your closed eyelids; a stimulus which becomes incorporated into your dream.
You may see an ambulance appear with red flashing lights, or your whole dreamscape lights up inexplicably. One customer said: "I see a beautiful pattern of gold and yellow diamonds that fills my field of vision..." This is your cue to recognize that you are dreaming and become lucid.
This method works well when you are comfortable with reality checks, stimulating your conscious brain in the dream and giving you a clear signal that something is amiss. Therefore, lucid dream masks like the NovaDreamer offer an artificial lucidity trigger to increase your chance of having lucid dreams.
Having founded The Lucidity Institute, Dr Stephen LaBerge decided to create a machine that could induce lucid dreams on demand. First he launched the DreamLight and DreamLink. These were the first lucid dreaming masks on the market and sold for over US $1,000 because of their cutting-edge technology.
The machines were refined over the years and in 1993, LaBerge and his team released The NovaDreamer. The mask was eventually discontinued in 2004. However, you can still obtain a second-hand one at eBay for between US $300 and US $600, which is in line with the original retail price.
Fans have been eagerly awaiting the release of the next generation - The NovaDreamer II - for several years. It underwent beta testing in 2008 but there have been no further announcements since then. A number of competing masks have been released onto the market in recent years, such as The REM Dreamer, DreamMaker and Remee.
There are lots of gadgets that promise to induce altered states of consciousness, and not all have genuinely good success rates. Of all the lucid dream machines on the market, the NovaDreamer is probably the most reputable. Full marks there.
The instructions are easy to follow. You can set the brightness and duration of the flashing lights, as well as a time delay to give you a chance to get to sleep without being interrupted. The display also tells you how many light cues were given during the night - that is, how many chances you had to lucid dream.
The mask itself is reasonably comfortable once you adjust the straps to fit your head. The best position to lie is on your back, so the mask stays in place. You can lie on your side, although sometimes this moves the mask out of place and causes false positives. This is when the lights flash but you are not dreaming, which can waste battery power and even wake you up. I'm afraid that if you are a regular belly sleeper, you have little chance of success.
As with many lucid dream masks, some people report tearing it off in the middle of the night, just to sleep undisturbed by the weight of the mask. But usually the desire to have lucid dreams is enough motivation to stick with it - at least during lie-ins and afternoon cat naps (which are ideal times to lucid dream anyway).
The Lucidity Institute states clearly that the NovaDreamer does not guarantee lucid dreams - and you do need to pitch in your own effort relating to reality checks. This is what enables you to take action when you see the flashing lights in a dream. So I'd say the success rate of the NovaDreamer is dramatically increased if you follow the instructions on reality checking.
Occasionally, the flashing lights of the NovaDreamer can ruin a lucid dream in progress. Faced with the distraction of the bright lights invading your dreamscape, all you can do is sit and wait for it to end. However, at worst this is an annoying side-effect. At best, it can remind you to stay lucid and extend the lucid dream for much longer than normal. To correct this, the NovaDreamer II should feature a two-way feedback function - so you can tell your mask you are lucid by performing a series of pre-set eye movements.
Like any lucid dream mask, the NovaDreamer is very good for detecting false awakenings. When you wake up, take the mask off and press any button. If the mask is unresponsive then you are still dreaming! This is a neat reality check and can help induce one of the most vivid types of lucid dreams possible.
The original version of the NovaDreamer is sometimes available second-hand on eBay. Meanwhile, the new NovaDreamer II has been in testing for five years and has only so far been used for beta testing at The Lucidity Institute's Hawaii lucid dreaming workshops.
A January 2012 update from TLI said they hoped to release the NovaDreamer II as a consumer product soon, but first needed to have the investment and business structure in place to support such a venture, which has been tricky in these economic times. In May 2012, they said an announcement would be made in June.
One thing's for sure: NovaDreamer now has some real competition. Because TLI didn't (or couldn't) patent the original technology, the general concept of infra-red REM detection has now been replicated several times over, as seen with products like the REM Dreamer and DreamMaker.
What's more, multiple lucid dreaming apps are emerging on smart phones which detect dream sleep (perhaps a little crudely) via mattress movement. This offers the major benefit of not needing to wear a circuit board-laden mask to sleep, while still receiving audio cues to help shape your dreams, as with Dream:ON.
However, if you want to hold out for the NovaDreamer II, it is said to have more interactive functions, including real-time response to eye movement signals, plus greater comfort, reliability and performance. Join The Lucidity Institute's mailing list to receive future updates on the NovaDreamer II.