Japanese company Neurowear is making a new version of its Necomimi headband, a wearable that reads your brain waves to… move robotic cat ears. You can think of them as a mood ring for nerds and uh, anyone who feels like re-enacting Cats (2019).
Necomimi comes from the Japanese words neko and mimi, which literally translate to cat ears. The device has a main headband with the fuzzy ears, and then there are sensors that rest on your forehead and clip onto your left ear. The sensors supposedly read your brain waves and move the ears depending on how you’re feeling. For instance, the ears will perk up if you’re focusing on something and they’ll “sleep” (or fold-over) when you’re relaxed. In a “neutral” mode, the ears will twitch. And if you’re “in the zone”, the ears will flutter left and right in unison.
For the most part, that’s the same as the version Neurowear released in 2012. This time around, however, the company has added speakers. Meaning, it makes meowing and purring noises when you’re focused or relaxed. The materials for this new version are also touted as being lighter and more compact. Right now, it’s being crowdfunded, and with 41 days left in the campaign, it’s already exceeded its 500,000 yen target by 383%.
But why. Why are these a thing? According to the company, it’s to help people better communicate their emotions non-verbally by “expanding the soul and body.” The company also says it’s a useful tool for people who have a hard time expressing how they feel, and it’s helpful as a visual tool for people to recognise when they’re in relaxed or focused states. Most importantly, it’s “because everyone will become cute” while wearing them. The examples Neurowear gives are dads with “perpetually scary faces” or your friend who’s looked tired as of late.
But let’s get real. Would you really wear one of these in real life? Cat ears, while undeniably cute, are also a magnet for the weird and creepy. Once, as a 14-year-old, I wore cat ears because it was a cute thing people did on the internet. My reward was a sweaty old man in a Naruto costume patting me on the head while calling me a “good neko-chan.” Not having learned my lesson, I bought those ridiculous cat ear headphones on a whim and was soundly ridiculed by coworkers on a Zoom call. (Look, OK, the battery died on my normal ones.)
On its crowdfunding page, Neurowear lists the various scenarios for wearing the Necomimi. They are baffling and absurd. For instance, smelling things, getting extremely literal with cat pose in yoga, travelling, video conferencing, picking out your clothes, V-tubing, dates, studying, cooking, card games… and bowling?!? Isn’t the point of poker to not give away your emotions? The reason it gives for bowling is to see if you can get your body “in the zone.” Gamers can wear these at their own risk. The internet is a horrible place full of creepers. I’m sure your boss will appreciate knowing if you feel relaxed on your next Zoom meeting thanks to your… cat ears. This will also go over smashingly on a first date. Of course. (If it does, you should perhaps consider running unless this is something you’ve agreed upon beforehand.)
Of all the reasons Neurowear gives, the one that makes the most sense is meowing and purring with your cat. Though, if my cat is any indication, I’m sure he’d stare at me like I’ve completely lost my marbles.