Basic biology is often a powerful form of technology. Consider newborns: According to studies—most recently in scientific journals like Scientific Reports and Children—keeping infants in close proximity to a heartbeat and steady breathing can promote neurological development and healthy sleep. But that kind of contact isn’t available to all infants‚ especially those in neonatal units. That got young Icelandic mother Eyrún Eggertsdóttir wondering: Why hadn’t someone designed a device that could mimic those biorhythms?
Eggertsdóttir took on the project herself and created Lulla‚ a pillowy doll with velvety-soft fabric and a folksy look. Lulla (in Iceland "go to lúlla" is like saying "nighty-night") functions as a sleep aid‚ thanks to an internal audio unit that emits heartbeat and breathing sounds recorded with a kundalini yoga instructor. If that seems vaguely dystopic, Eggertsdóttir is aware. But when she studied similar devices‚ she found that the gadgets played unnaturally fast heartbeats or white noise—synthetic sounds that were hardly lifelike.
"We’re trying to copy Mother Nature because she’s got the best solutions‚" says Eggertsdóttir‚ who landed on Lulla’s 75 "heartbeats" per minute and 65-decibel maximum volume level after chatting with doctors and nurses at a neonatal unit. Lulla also eschews other common sleep aids that its creator finds even more absurd than a simulated human heartbeat. It wouldn’t make sense for Lulla to come with 10 light settings or a menu of sounds‚ she says‚ because "sleeping people don’t make whale sounds all of a sudden."
Initially produced via crowdfunding‚ Lulla was a hit from inception‚ winning awards‚ selling out multiple times‚ and eliciting effusive online parental praise.
That fandom prompted RóRó (Lulla’s parent company) to introduce in 2020 the Lulla Owl, which straps to the side of a crib to make it safe for babies younger than 12 months‚ and this year RóRó plans to release a larger doll just for toddlers and older children‚ as well as a soothing pillow for adults.
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