Hey everyone, I made an app called IsoTank on the iOS store. It uses a stroboscope you can set between 8-12Hz, causing your brainwaves to change to alpha waves that we see in deep relaxation and meditation.

It also makes you hallucinate!

It disrupts the visual scanning mechanism in the brain causing the brain to fill in the blanks (like what happens in an Isolation Tank when the brain isn't getting information).

So you feel relaxed and you have a dream while fully awake.

This same process is used in the lab to simulate hallucinatory conditions like Charles Bonnet Syndrome.

I'm also currently doing my undergrad in psychology and I work full-time doing nightshifts as a 911 operator and a fire dispatcher to pay for school.

I'm hoping if this app gets popular enough I can raise some money for my tuition next semester.

Link to the app: IsoTank


Edit: I should also mention do not use the app if you have epilepsy or are light sensitive since there is flashing lights involved.

Edit: thanks to the mods for the assistance!

Edit: If you're an android user and want a PM for when the app is up just PM me now and let me know. The comments are getting a bit cluttered again.

. . . .

Edit: Hey all, I had been doing this between calls on my night shift. Just got home now and ready to hit the hay.

Just wanted to say thanks to everyone who purchased the app and everyone who wanted a promo-code. I can't tell you how much the interest in the app means to me. I walked into this not expecting any interest and go so much in return.

Anyone who purchased the app should know the money will go towards my university education and hopefully giving me ideas for more cool apps like this one.

When I wake up I'll continue to answer questions in this thread as long as people post in it, but I'll be back with another AMA once I get the android and pc versions going. Had I known there would be so much interest I would have waited.

Thanks so much everyone, and anyone who wants to read about the effect can check out this journal article: http://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/235945

Also heres my twitter if you want to keep updated: https://twitter.com/IsoTankApp

And I'll be sure to pm all who commented and pm'd me to update on the android app.

Thanks so much everyone!


Hey all, I've run out of promocodes unfortunately. However I will be back with another AMA at some point with codes for android. Thanks so much again!

Here's the link to the app: IsoTank

Comments: 242 • Responses: 46  • Date: 

mypurplefriend21 karma

Will there be an Android version?

Will the effect go away without a trace?

isotank25 karma

I plan on uploading one maybe before Christmas, just got to make sure I got the money before my next paycheck for the developer fee.

And yes, you play the stroboscope over closed eyelids. Once you open your eyes all effects end, except you might feel a little relaxed as if you just finished meditating.

mypurplefriend7 karma

Cool, can I set an alert for that? I'll probably forget otherwise.

isotank11 karma

Sure. Also I'll inbox you when it is up.

I'm a novice programmer (I made the app with zero experience by googling and asking reddit) but I should have it up soon.

tribak5 karma

Also interested in the Android version :)

isotank4 karma

I'll make sure to pm you.

Lord_Zirp3 karma

PM me as well! I would love it!

isotank3 karma

Sure thing.

johnnyrd1 karma


isotank2 karma

You betcha.

antariksh_vaigyanik1 karma

Please notify me too if you can. Thanks.

isotank2 karma

Yep not a problem.

wargamer6201 karma

thats impressive dedication

isotank3 karma

I just really believe in this app. Not only is it fun, it takes people out of this surface focused world and lets them look inward at there own subconscious landscape.

In the 60s William Burroughs and Brion Gysin hoped stroboscopes would replace TVs. I figure being able to put one on a phone in your pocket might be a step in that direction.

Camsy3414 karma

I know $0.99 isn't a lot but for an app with no reviews, it won't be easy to convince people to purchase the app. How effective is your app? Are there potential side-effects people should know about ahead of time?

isotank8 karma

Beside the fact that people with epilepsy shouldn't use anything involving flashing lights there are no negative side-effects or dangers.

In fact it causes you to relax so there are benefits to using it.

The procedure that the app uses is documented in experimental studies to be effective, and its been documented for over 100 years. Its just no one (besides a handful) have thought to use the effect outside the lab.

If you go to google scholar and search stroboscope and entrainment or hallucinations or Charles bonnet syndrome you will see plenty of results.

My favourite journal article is this one: http://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/235945

Edit: spelling.

ProNinjabot7 karma

Does the app have a popup warning (for epilepsy)? Might be important if it's not already there (just based off my video game experiences!)

isotank10 karma

I have a warning on the description in the appstore and in the app before you start the stroboscope. A popup might be a good idea though, thanks!

vangrun8 karma

How did the idea come to make this app?

isotank9 karma

I've always been a fan of William S. Burroughs and the beatniks.

One of the methods Burroughs used to generate ideas for his writings was to use a Dreamachine. This is a stroboscope made from a perforated tube on a rotating turntable with a light in the middle. (Plans are available online if you wish to build one using bristle board, a record player, and a lamp).

I built one in highschool for a science fair project. Taking psychology I was reminded of this by reading about the effect used in the lab to simulate hallucinatory conditions.

I thought I'd make an app that would cost less than the bristle board to make a homemade Dreamachine yourself, and you could carry around with you.

Manufactured Dreamachines can cost thousands, so hopefully with this more people out there will be able to use this method to explore their unconscious visual landscape.

isotank8 karma

Another factor was my growing interest in isolation tanks.

I was interested in the way they could produce hallucinations like the effect I was reading about.

However I saw that a tank costs thousands, are nearly impossible to build yourself, and costs hundreds to rent at a spa.

So I built the app so I could access the experience my self and so I wouldn't have to build a dreamachine. Those have their own issues (mainly they are big, not portable, and can't lay down on a couch using it).

konfettiboy4 karma

Are you aware of other apps that do the same? How is yours different? Do you use binaural beats too?

isotank5 karma

I couldn't find any app that uses this effect. It's mostly why I made it, I wanted a portable stroboscope I could carry with me and put inside a google-cardboard so I could kickback and explore a dreamscape.

If you use binaural beats with it the entrainment effect increases. I read a study that compared each on their own and together. Binaural audio stimulation is about half as effective as a stroboscope at 8-12Hz (I'll have a look around for the journal article). Together there was an decreased time in reaching alphawaves I believe.

I prefer to throw on an audiobook so its like a movie. But binaural beats would work well to increase the effect as well.

solojer1233 karma

How did you learn to make apps? Btw: would love a promo code :)

isotank3 karma

Just sent you one.

And I learnt on the fly. I used godot, google, and asking reddit to make the app.

Someone who knows programming could've probably made it way faster than me. I just used my breaks at work to make it over a period of months.

Godot is on steam and is very novice friendly, the code is similar to python from what I gather. r/programming and r/godot were big helps for sure.

the_watchman273 karma

Why did your app give me a wicked headache?

isotank3 karma

It shouldn't have that effect. It's been used in experiments for decades and hasn't been shown to cause headaches.

Unless you have epilepsy it shouldn't cause discomfort.

the_watchman271 karma

I think it is possible that my brain is fighting the effects. I've experienced the same thing with alcohol and marijuana before. It's like my brain doesn't want to allow something to slow its processing power done.

I do not have epilepsy but it caused a tremendous ache in my frontal lobe.

isotank2 karma

I've had similar experiences meditating. It was explained to me that tension and anxiety that I had buried beneath my consciousness was being released, this might be something similar.

the_watchman271 karma

Haha. I wish it was buried beneath my consciousness.

isotank3 karma

One of the best things I ever did for my anxiety and issues I've dealt with from the past was counseling with a psychologist. I had always been interesting in calming things like stroboscopes, meditation, etc., but talking it out with a professional made everything else I was doing even more that much more effective. They have tips and tricks that is more effective coming from an outside perspective.

I highly recommend it to everyone, even if you feel fine. Having a professional help you operate at your optimum level is definitly worth it.

isotank2 karma

Its strange also because stroboscopes can be used to treat migraines, like in this study:


Everyone is different, so it may be that you are sensitive to light in this way. Do you have a family history of epilepsy?

byfuryattheheart3 karma

Is this something that could be a sleep aide? Ive been having a lot of trouble sleeping lately and feel like this might help in some way.

isotank6 karma

I find it helps myself.

I work nightshifts at a 911 center and Fire Dispatch to put myself through my psychology program.

I find using it cuts down on my total need and revitalizes me when I'm sleep deprived.

Here's a study that looked at mediation (where you produce alpha waves the app induces) and sleep and how it improves fatigue. http://behavioralandbrainfunctions.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1744-9081-6-47

dezhead842 karma

I'm about to purchase this just to see if it actually works. If it doesn't, will you refund my money and my dignity for being a sucker?

isotank1 karma

I'll pm you a promocode for a free purchase. If you like it feel free to recommend it to a friend.

dezhead842 karma

I just bought it and it gave me a headache after about 5 minutes. Can't say I saw anything but I'll try again and give it ten full minutes.

isotank1 karma

That's strange about the headache, if its causing that you can ask for a refund though on your phone through these steps.

Relaxation is important, and letting your mind wander.

I suggest you get comfortable and listen to music/podcast you find relaxing or an audiobook.

The alpha waves are key to interrupting communication between the thalamus and the visual cortex so the subconscious can fill in the information.

We produce these when relaxed and meditating, and the app works to impose these brainwaves on us.

Tension and focused thinking can work against the stroboscope in producing alpha waves.

Like meditating this gets easier every time. Also as you figure out how to get into a comfortable position the effect will occur sooner.

If you're curious about this effect I recommend this journal article:


Xalibu22 karma

Awesome idea. I am excited to see an android version. Do you see any issues or negative implication in effectively (assumed) replicating this phenomenon?

Again super cool idea.

isotank5 karma

The effect has been studied for many years and no ill effects have been seen. Of course, flashing lights are involved so someone with epilepsy shouldn't use it.

In the end a stroboscope is just a flashing light, whether from a LED light setup in a lab, or from your phone screen, there is no objective difference.

I should have the android version up before Christmas. I can pm you when its up if you like.

Xalibu22 karma

I meant negative implication in a non-medical sense I suppose. As in it being witch hunted or the like. I noted you had responded to a similar question about medical concerns. I should have been more clear. I could just see this being overblown in a media sense due to "hallucinations" being a factor. Thanks for the fast response.

Edit: Would be awesome if you let me know when its released! You obviously care about your project and I will definitely review it once I am able.

isotank5 karma

No problem.

And yes there will always be people who will vilify anything outside of everyday experience.

I could see the danger to people with epilepsy being blown out of proportion, it unfortunate they could not use this, but its of no danger to people without the condition.

And just hallucinating itself I can see people getting up in arms about. Even though its safe, is generate from your own subconscious, and has been done in labs for 100+ years to no ill effect.

Its relaxing and fun, but some will not approve of it.

Also marijuana increases the effect many times over, so people may criticize that as well.

printerbob1 karma

So if it is generated from your subconscious, and is relaxing, would you recommend it to people with PTSD?

isotank2 karma

I absolutely would as increasing alpha waves has been shown to benefit conditions like PTSD. I would recommend it to anyone feeling stress or anxiety the same way I would recommend meditation.

There are many conditions that correlate to a lack of alpha brainwaves. Beta waves are those we experience when we are alert, stressed, and ready to act. Alpha waves are present in relaxed moments like meditation.

Heres a study that looks at this: http://charleston.braincoretherapy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/PENISTON-PTSD.pdf

Edit: While the effects aren't permanent, they do provide relief in the meantime after using it and could prevent relapse.

canada_rv1 karma

Can you ping me too when an Android version is available? Thanks!

isotank2 karma

Yep not a problem.

glitchytsuki2 karma

On a scale of 'rubbing your eyes really hard' to 'sitting in a pitch black room listening to loud music on lsd', how would rate the intensity of this?

isotank2 karma

Never done lsd, but the end result is definitely more intense than the entopic images you see when you press on your eyes. These images are physical echoes of your nervous system and are seen often in the early stages of hallucinations.

You see this at the beginning of using the app as well, they build in complexity, and then you have full blown hallucinations of people, objects, landscapes, etc.

So to answer you question, it starts at one end of your scale and move to the other, and is indistinguishable from hallucinations from hallucinogens. This effect is often used to simulate hallucinations in the lab for research purposes.

[deleted]2 karma


isotank3 karma

Just sent to you.

Keep in mind you need 10 mins for full blown hallucinations. The hallucinations will start as waves of colour, then geometric patterns, and build in complexity until youre dreaming.

LordPlutox1 karma

How does it work? Is it psychological?

isotank2 karma

Its physical. The stroboscope causes brain entrainment and moves your brainwaves towards alpha waves. It also interrupts communication between the thalamus and visual cortex (how exactly is a matter of dispute).

A good article summarizing the history of the effect and how it works can be found here: http://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/235945

But its basically as I said above.

First you see waves of color and geometric shapes. Some researchers believe this is echoes of the neuronal visual system. Then over time the hallucinations build in complexity and you have full blown hallucinations.

This is used in the lab to simulate conditions like Charles Bonnet Syndrome.

MQT4201 karma

have you done hallucinogens? if yes, how are the effects of this app compared to those caused by hallucinogens?

isotank3 karma

I've only smoked pot. Smoking before using it increases the vividness of the hallucinations.

William S. Burroughs was fond of doing this to inspire ideas for his writings.

Also, Kurt Cobain use the effect as well. He got his stroboscope from Burroughs I believe.

TheDiscordedSnarl1 karma

Make a PC version?

isotank4 karma

I do have one. Not sure how I would distribute it.

I'm a novice at programming. I made the program (a simple one) over months by googling and asking reddit. But I have a pc excutable file.

Any suggestion on where I would upload to sell it?

ProNinjabot1 karma

The Windows Apps store?

isotank3 karma

Makes sense, I'll look into putting it up through there.

ProNinjabot1 karma

Have you thought about using YouTube? As long as the strobe frequency does not need to be precise it should work (I have no idea I'm "just a programmer"). It should provide an easier distribution channel than all the various app stores. Also no need to make/support an app for each platform... You could also try a hybrid model: support one app and use YouTube to cover other platforms.

This just reminded me of "white noise" videos on YouTube (helps me sleep), which provides more options than "white noise" apps (from what I've seen anyway).

isotank1 karma

I thought about doing something online like that, but like a lot of people out there I can't afford to use data on my phone so I wanted something I could use without cell service.

Also I have some plans for further features I'll add in updates. i.e., binaural beats. Some studies suggest color has an effect on imagery as well.

ProNinjabot1 karma

YouTube videos are downloadable. The "white noise" video I use is like 10 hrs long and not something I want to stream for obvious reasons.

That's the other factor, if there's too much entropy (or lots of control knobs) then it's easier to manage an actual app instead of a gazillion videos.

isotank1 karma

Didn't know you could do that, I'll have to look into putting it up on youtube. Thanks!

Edit: I think I understand what you are saying about entropy. I would have to upload many videos to cover the frequencies between 8-12Hz, you would have to go to a different video if you wanted to adjust on the fly, and the videos would have to be very long (I've used the app for hours), so for this case an app does make more sense as you can adjust a slider that adjusts the frequency of the stroboscope.

ProNinjabot1 karma

Yup. Besides frequency I suspected there might be other variables like color and/or shape. Part of my job involves estimating (and managing) the amount of entropy within a system before/while/after building it for cost efficiency purposes (current project I'm working on involves thousands of "adjustable knobs" on a budget that is tiny in comparison to the F35). Lots of projects go over budget due to management grossly underestimating this and how it affects everything, which leads to bad decisions made on bad info... Not that it's relevant to what you're doing I'm just clarifying my comment regarding entropy.

isotank1 karma

Makes sense, and variables should only increase with updates I'm planning.

rawrt1 karma

How does it work? Sorry if this has already been covered. Do you put your phone on your closed eyelids? Or is there some device you connect to your phone?

isotank4 karma

No accessories needed (I've seen stroboscope things you can buy online that plug into your phone but cost hundreds).

You just pick a frequency (lower frequencies are associated with more images) and place phone in front of your closed eyelids.

The hallucinations will start as waves of colour, then geometric patterns, and build in complexity until youre dreaming. For full blown hallucinations you need 10 mins for full blown hallucinations.

You open your eyes to end.

I like to put it inside a google cardboard just so I don't have to hold it, but its not needed.

deletrixx91 karma

What's the difference setting it to 8Hz as opposed to setting it to 12Hz? And do you happen to have a promo code left? I'm a bit skeptical about this, but would like to give it a try!

isotank2 karma

Just sent you a promo code.

Lower frequencies are associated with more imagery. So if you just want to meditate put it high, if you want more vivid hallucinations set it lower.

The science behind it is well documented (the effect has been studies for 100+ years starting with people like Purkinje). Google scholar will give lots of peer reviewed studies on the effect (just search stroboscope, hallucinations, Charles bonnet syndrome).

George_E_Hale1 karma

Have any of the users here who asked and were given promo codes gotten back to you as to the effects? Or might any of them be willing to share their comments?

isotank3 karma

One user in this thread said:

Freak_Out_Bazaar 3 points 3 hours ago I've always tried to make sense of the stuff that happens behind closed eyelids but this app makes it more intense. In the first minute it was like small galaxies arranged in an orderly matrix, spinning, while the entire scene was flashing red and blue. Then slashes started appearing, almost as if having a sharp blade swung at me. Towards the 5 minute mark I started seeing spaces that were white, which was a bit surprising. I then started feeling sleepy but that's probably because of lack of sleep. Will try again when I have more time.

thundergryphon1 karma

How long does it usually take until you start having the hallucinations?

isotank3 karma

Within a minute or two you will see entopic images (geometric shapes and patterns). These will continue to build in complexity. Give it at least 10 minutes for full blown complex hallucinations.

Fun fact about entopic images: you can see these on cave walls from the stone age. You begin to see these when taking many types of hallucinogens, and residue of them were found in the caves. So shamans back then were seeing these as we are and artistically expressing this experience. It also adds evidence that entopic hallucinations represent an echo of our nervous system structure.

[deleted]1 karma


isotank2 karma

I have actually, I mentioned in the post that anyone who wants a free copy can click the link or PM me.

AmazingLunchbox1 karma

What did you use to program it? (Curious because I am now studying programming and code in school).

isotank2 karma

I've a complete novice when it comes to programming.

I used godot as I read that it was the most user friendly.

I basically googled and researched on reddit each step along the way.

From godot I exported the data binary file (I think) and emailed to a mac, copied to a xcode project template replacing the data file, getting all the stuff together to sumbit, and got it approved by apple after paying a developer fee.

Google and a few subreddits were my go-to for how to do it all.

Took me months of picking at it during my breaks on my night shifts.

Right now I downloaded the developer kit for android and I'm stuck trying to figure out how to export my godot program.

I need to use the keytool command from the Oracle JDK (I installed this) but I have no idea what that means.

ProNinjabot1 karma

I need to use the keytool command from the Oracle JDK (I installed this) but I have no idea what that means.

Not sure what you need cryptography for... Sounds related to app signature/security. When you download an app it has a "trusted secret code" that your phone can decode/check to verify that "Apple says it's safe" (I'm really over simplifying here). Disclaimer: I haven't built a mobile app but my day job involves Java/web technologies (that run on mobile devices + PCs, even PlayStation although it's not officially supported/tested).

Apparently Godot is a brand spanking new product (released last month), which would explain why I haven't heard of it. Is there anything specific you need from it? It sounds like overkill for what you are making.

isotank1 karma

Godot has been on Steam for a while now, I've been fiddling with it for close to a year I think.

Here's the instructions I'm trying to follow:


stuck at 'Create a debug.keystore.'

ProNinjabot1 karma

I should probably respond to you by PM... Unless you created another post related to this? I don't want to go off on a tangent and flood your AMA with technobabble lol.

isotank1 karma

haha yeah if you got any tips I'd appreaciate a pm.

These problems are half the fun for me. Googling and asking subreddits for help, makes it feel like a puzzle.

icecreamhoagie1 karma

Sounds like an interesting app.

May I get a promo code to use the app?

Also, what is your plan after you graduate?

isotank2 karma

Yep just sent one to your inbox.

I am looking to get my masters after graduation and then open my own counseling office (my province only requires a masters to be a registered psychologist).

Though I will say that finding practical uses for psychology (like this app) has taken my interest, which is causing me to consider academics.

I have a big idea for something else but it will require a lot more education and research on my part before I'm ready to tackle it.

Cyull1 karma

Do you still have any promo Codes?

My other Comment got removed because it wasnt a question.

Are those dreams you Are Talking about like lucid dreams with real Images or more surreal?

Would like to try it out but am a Bit sceptical tbh :D

isotank2 karma

Sure just sent you one.

After a few minutes you will see full blown hallucinations of what appear as real objects. People, animals, and landscapes (my faviourite). It is comparable to lucid dreams as more time passes you have more interaction with the hallucinations (e.g., walking through the landscape, picking up objects). The imagery can be very surreal as well (e.g., people with animal heads appear often to me).

The science behind it is well documented. Google-scholar will produce many journal articles if you search stroboscope and hallucinations. My favorite one is this: http://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/235945

0200A1 karma

some people get more hypnagogic imagery before falling asleep than others, and this is one method of attempting to induce lucid dreaming. in your opinion, would this help improve the frequency and intensity in those who don't get much imagery before sleep?

I also wonder, for those who naturally get significantly less visual activity from psychedelics than others, if this would affect that after enough repeated sessions ala a sort of visualization training program?

also, any chance there is a promo code left? very interested in this sort of thing.

isotank3 karma

Just sent a promo code to your inbox.

As for hypnagogic imagery. I expect it would, or maybe cause hypnagogic imagery to happen sooner since the stroboscope is already relaxing you, increasing alpha waves, and stimulating activity in the visual cortex. However I'm not aware of a experiment that looked at this.

And as for visualization training, I can speak for in increasing visualization in my own case.

Before using this effect with my app and a physical stroboscope I constructed I was very poor in imagination while reading. Now when I read or listen to an audiobook without a stroboscope I can almost see it.

Both are cool questions and might make a good grad project. If I look into it I'll let you know the results.

0200A1 karma

Thanks! this is exciting because as somebody with hyperthyroid, which is to say inherently more difficulty in the relaxation department, this sounds like a boon to help me further develop my visualization potential. cheers :)

isotank2 karma

Hyperthyroid runs in my family as well. Sometimes the mind knows what it needs and actively seeks it out.

23baseball31 karma

Without an iPhone it looks like I'm SOL right now. But I like the idea!

Are the effects comparable to the Ganzfeld experiment? Would you say your method is better than most others?

isotank3 karma

Just did a quick google search.

The ping pong ball thing produces a similar, but weaker, effect. What you are doing is limiting information to the visual cortex, which then fills in the blanks with subconscious imagery.

When I was looking for alternatives to isolation tanks and physical stroboscope setups I tried this myself. Placing ping pong balls over the eyes was not as strong an effect as a stroboscope for hallucinations. I believe this is because the stroboscope causes strong brain entrainment, causing relaxation to open up to imagery, and interrupts the visual scanning mechanism in the brain.

A peer reviewed journal article can be found here on this: http://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/235945

As for the parapsychology, I always find things like this fun to think about. Many people report similar experiences during hallucinations and meeting very similar beings. This quite likely due to the structure of the brain itself, but its still spooky.