Aug 16, 2015 - Highlights From the 2015 Float Conference

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What is the Float Conference?

The 2015 Float Conference took place last weekend in Portland Oregon. This event is a conference where people interested in float tanks go including: researchers, float tank manufactures, salt companies, float center employees/owners, float enthusiasts, NSF employees, health department regulators, and more. The conference is a place for everyone in the industry to get together and to have meaningful discussions about the direction we want the floating industry to move. Also the conference has been a place for researchers to discuss their past research on the benefits of floating and Justin Feinstein and his team from LIBR (Loretta Institute for Brain Research) have recently started sharing their findings of their new research. We are in exciting times for the float industry as more and more tank manufactures pop up, new float centers open every year, and more people know about floating than ever before.

Important talks at the conference:

It’s difficult to pick out certain talks that will be mentioned here because every talk at the conference was really phenomenal and informative. Ashkahn from Float On really has done a great job getting these speakers together and lined up. The amount of hours put into this conference was tremendous and Ashkahn showed that himself alone spent over 1,000 hours working on the conference and in total it was closer to 2,000 for everyone involved. I cannot say thank you enough to the team at Float On for organizaing this conference because without them it would not have been possible.

LIBR research


(This study was referenced in a talk by Justin Feinstein. Those who have floated clearly know this is not the case in the tank)

One speaker that really stood out was the neuropsychologist Justin Feinstein. The work he and his team are doing at LIBR is truly amazing, they are taking fMRI images of the brain before and after 3 floats to see how it changes with these floats. They are doing RCTs (randomized controlled studies) in order to validate that their findings are scientifically accurate. Currently the research is preliminary but we will soon have research that has solid conclusions on how floating can change the brain. He and his team want to study the effects of floating on PTSD, addictions, anxiety, and eating disorders such as anorexia. I won’t go over specifically what the results were from the fMRI scans but his team is very fascinated in interoception (being aware of your physical sensations such as heart beat or breath) and it seems like the float tank can enhance this, based on my own experience. This is interesting because in Vipassana meditation there is a heavy emphasis on focusing on physical sensations such as feeling hot, cold, tingling, numbness, etc.

Emily Noren

Another great talk was by Emily Noren, a young woman that had anorexia, who discovered floating about a year ago in search to help with this disease. Emily got on the stage, with such an open heart, started talking about her battle with anorexia from a young teenager until an adult. She had a great analogy about how this voice in her head she called “Ed” would aggravate her eating disorder and make her think about counting calories, weight, body image etc. She started using the tank because a friend of hers, Sandra Calm, was a co-owner of the Float Shoppe and suggested she give floating a shot. She started floating and it wasn’t easy at first but she made an effort to keep coming back and with time this voice “Ed” started fading away. A new voice took place of “Ed” which stopped caring about the calories and what she ate. After floating for about a year she has seen a noticeable diminish in the eating disorder. Her speech was so touching it brought me to tears and her talk was met by a standing ovation at the end. She has written a book called Unsinkable about it which she has posted on her website (for free) at emilykatenoren.com and can also be purchased on Amazon.

Entreprenuer talk


There was a great talk by Nick from True REST and Andy from Float House which are two large franchises the former started in Arizona and the latter Canada. They were explaining how float centers shouldn’t devalue the floats by continuously offering discounts like Groupon, Social Shopper, and Living Social. They were explaining how the industry is taking off and float centers are popping up rapidly. For example in 2009 in the USA there were around 15-20 float centers with 3+ tanks and in Canada there was just 1 center. In 2015 there are now 271 active float centers in the USA and in Canada there are 56 active float centers. Floating seems to be spreading faster than ever and I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon. Especially based on the fact that there were about 500 people at the conference this year.

Glenn and Lee Perry


Glenn and Lee Perry were at this years conference again. Glenn and Lee were two of the first residential float tank manufactures back in the 1970s with John Lilly creating the first tank outside of the research labs. They have a company called Samadhi Tank Co where they sell durable float tanks some of which have lasted over 25 years. Their talk was mostly focused on why float centers should start selling float tanks. The reason behind this is that not everyone who wants to float will want to do it in a public place. As always the Perry’s talk was very inspirational and you can really see how much passion they have to keep this industry moving forward.

Float On


Graham and Ashkahn from Float On always seem to have an incredibly energetic talk that seems to keep everyone engaged. This year they talked about how the Washington monument took over 100 years to be built and how there was a lot of planning involved instead of work actually being done. I think the purpose of this talk was to really inspire future float tank manufactures and center founders to stop worrying and planning and start doing. Kind of like the saying goes “one in the hand two in the bush”. You can always correct mistakes later on and it is impossible to predict everything that will go wrong, especially with a float center.

Kevin Johnson from Zero Gravity Institue


Kevin Johnson had an amazing talk last year about how to market your float business to early adopters. This year’s talk by him also was outstanding. He first explained how Zero Gravity Institute is going to partner up with Onnit to create even better float rooms. He then talked about how as an industry we need to band together and cooperate with one another. This was really refreshing as the industry is getting larger we are starting to see more people getting into the industry for various motivations. Kevin also explained how he would be happy to help any float tank center who is planning on opening for free. This is really great to hear especially because he is setting an example for other float centers to help one another out.

Crash from Float Labs


Last but not least Crash from Float Labs spoke this year about why we need to protect our industry with getting our float tanks NSF certified. Last year was a bit controversial because some people misunderstood and thought that because he initiated the NSF standard for float tanks that he was trying to flush out competition by getting expensive tests done. I’ve come to think this is not the case but instead he just wants this industry to be safe and to not have to worry about health departments shutting down float tank centers from the lack of NSF certifications. Crash really seems to care about this industry and doesn’t care what other people think of him especially if he is doing what he thinks is best.

Summary

Both years I’ve been the float conference have been amazing experiences. I would recommend this conference for anyone who likes floating or the float culture. I plan on going back next year August 20th-21st 2016 and would love to see more people out there (leave a comment below if you are going to attend)! Every year it seems like more and more people attend and it’s really great to see the same people each year. There is really something special about this industry that revolves around a sense of community and good will for others. More info can be found on the float conference’s website here.

Jul 10, 2015 - Why I Chose The Zen Float Tent

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After about a year and a half of consideration I’ve finally decided to purchase a Zen Float Tent.

This idea of getting a float tank has been bouncing around in my mind for a couple of years now. I had thought about the Escape Pod Tank or the Samadhi Tank but just couldn’t justify the cost of those for residential use. These tanks are great, however paying $6,000+ for a tank just didn’t seem to be feasible for something that wouldn’t be used for commercial purposes. The Zen Float Tent comes in just under $2,000 which is a lot more affordable especially considering that the cost of salt could run you close to $600 to fill it up initially (plus more for maintenance).

Three reasons why to choose the Zen Float Tent:

  1. Affordable
  2. Light weight
  3. Aesthetically Pleasing

If I were to purchase a higher end float tank for my home (or even a float center) the Escape Pod Tank is on the top of the list. They are very durable (stainless steel) and the filtration system seems to be very robust. Also their pricing is very reasonable at under $10,000 for a commercial grade tank.

Here is what the Escape Pod looks like (2015 model).

Typically with a commercial grade tank they have higher end filters that clean the water much more quickly than in a residential tank. In the case of my setup I will have another filtration system besides the standard one that comes with the Zen Float Tent. The reason being is that I know many people who are interested in floating and want to make sure the water is very pure for them.

Custom filtration system:

Possible additional filter

Along with this tank I plan on using 35% hydrogen peroxide to help sanitize the water. H202 + UV has been studied as an effective way to clean/disinfect the water. See the EPA post about it here.</a> There also have been many studies done on the combination of UV + H202 in disinfecting water which can be found on Google Scholar.</a> If your really interested in how this works UV + H202 forms hydroxyl radicals</a>which are often referred to as the “detergents” of the atmosphere because they react with many pollutants, often acting as the first step to their removal. This makes sense that UV + H202 can disinfect water effectively.

Typically H202 comes in 3% solutions but for the sake of sanitization 35% makes more sense economically.

The Zen Float Tent comes with one filter pump which includes a UV light (note: the new upgraded tent v1.5 includes two pumps). Just to make sure that the water is ultra pure I may end up getting another UV light to attach to the intex pool pump just to have more of those hydroxyl radicals that I mentioned earlier.

Isolating sound

Sound isolation is a typical problem with float tanks especially low frequency sounds such as people walking or cars driving by. These sounds can travel well throughs solid objects such as the walls and the water that you will be floating in.

To solve this issue I plan on purchasing a neoprene rubber anti-vibration pad to help absorb these sounds if they are too distracting.

Finally there is the issue of the tank leaking if some sharp object gets into the tank and tears the vinyl. For this I plan on purchasing an industrial spill berm to catch water if the tent leaks.

Mar 15, 2015 - 3 Parts of An Automated Float Tank Center

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The reason for this post is to speak in more detail about what will be required to create a fully automated float center. Some of the components that will need to be implemented will include Arduinos(microcontrollers), access cards(to get into building), a database(storing user info), Stripe/Paypal(credit card processor), and networking to tie the whole system into the internet.

Various components to the system

We will break down the whole system into 3 different systems. These systems are:

  1. Scheduling/Billing System
  2. Building security
  3. Filtration/clean up

Scheduling/Billing System

This is the system that will be designed around a website that will allow floaters to sign up on the website and schedule floats.
There are already many versions of this type of software developed however one needs to be custom designed to fit in with the automated float center. Some examples include:

  1. FloatHelm
  2. FrontDesk
  3. ZenPlanner
  4. MindBodyOnline

Scheduling all starts with the customer wanting to book at float online. He will go to the website and there will be a button that will pull up the scheduling application. From there they can pick the time they want to float and then pay using a credit card. This system will need to be tied into the building security system which will permit the user to gain access using their access card or PIN number when they show up to float.

This process might look like this:

  1. User books/pays for float online
  2. Access card is activated for the time they have scheduled
  3. They show up and their access card allows them to enter their specified float room

Building security

In order to maintain security for the building and the customers who use this facility there must be strict access into the building only permitted if that user has scheduled a float. The reason for strict access is that we only want floaters who are permitted into the facility at their designated float time, if this is not the case then people may be tempted to steal floats or to disrupt the peaceful waiting room which could become overcrowded. The access control software would be able to keep track of how long users stay at the float tank center including time during, before, and after their float. These metrics would be a lot easier to obtain if the only permitted people into the building have been authorized to float. These metrics could be used to help cut back on unnecessary time spent between float sessions and to help provide an overall better experience for the floater.

This aspect of the float center would operate similar to a 24/7 tanning salon except that users only have a certain time window in which they can gain access to the facility. This system would need an access card reader or PIN pad on the front door and on each of the float tank room doors. When the user arrives they will already know which room they are floating in via text message or email, so they can go into the facility and head to the room they have booked for floating. Once the user enters their room they will take a shower and then enter the tank. A sensor will be placed on the door of the room which will detect when it was opened and will know to start a timer which will play music in the tank when the float time is up.

Certain problems can appear at this stage of the process:

  1. What if the floater arrives late for their float?
  2. How do you prevent a floater from staying longer in the tank?
  3. What if the floater has health complications in the tank?

To combat some of these problems there will need to be fail-safes in place. Let’s take the example of the floater arriving late for their appointment. If the floater arrives more than 15 minutes late the front door would not allow them to enter. This would keep the process moving smoothly because if a floater arrives late it could push back the floats for other people.

In the event that a floater stays in the tank longer than scheduled, there will be various ways to “encourage” them to get out of the tank. When the time is up there first might be some music that begins to play in their float tank. Then if they still have not gotten out (motion sensor to detect this) a light could come on and then start flashing if they continue to stay in the tank.

The third problem is a bit tricky because without someone being on site it might be hard to know if someone is having problems in the tank. This issue could be compared to a swimming pool that has no lifeguard on duty where there would be a disclaimer that in the event something bad happens there may be no one to help you. Besides this disclaimer another useful option would be to place an “emergency” button inside the tank so if the floater is having issues they can hit the button and it will dial 911 and they could talk to them via a speaker in the tank.

Filtration/clean up

In between float sessions it is necessary to run the tank’s filtration system in order to clean all of the water of bad bacteria and pathogens that may have accumulated after a person’s float. This system will be implemented by using a motion detector to sense when a person has gotten out of the tank and has started their post float shower. Something to keep in mind the system would have to verify that that floater’s time has been used up in the event that they were planning on going back to continue floating.

Typically the floater will use a towel, ear plugs, and maybe Q-tips which they will need to dispose of after their float is over. For this type of float center there would be a trash can and a laundry basket in order to keep the room clean. Also it is critical that there is a large stack of towels laid out so that the every floater will have fresh towels throughout the day. At the end of the day there will need to be a person who comes in an does laundry and takes out the trash. There could be an incentive where a floater gets one float at half price if they do some chores around the center and help clean up.

Summary

To sum things up there are a lot of technical aspects that go into creating an automated float tank center. Clearly this system needs to be well thought out ahead of time and designed carefully with fail-safes in place to help deal with any problems that might occur.