December 18, 2017

Dragons Need Balance - Two Dragon's Den Pitches Uncomfortably Familiar to Power Balance

I used to watch the CBC show Dragon's Den when it first came out and enjoyed it quite a bit. I even played soccer with someone that was on the show which was kinda neat, shout out to Wonton Crunch. With that, it is disappointing that my attention has been drawn to two pitches from the show's 12th Season that each makes the claim that they can instantly improve your balance. Those companies are Neuro Reset and New Age Performance (Seriously that's the name...with that name you're getting lucky to get away with simply not being more balanced for $50, I'd expect  'New Age Performance' to sell you an $1199 dollar pair of cleats that shock your feet and realign your charkras).

Both pitches are of the same nature and make the same claim. People come out, talk about having a product that improves balance by adjusting something, one of the dragons has their balance tested and they are shakey, the product is used and instantly the dragon's balance is now perfect. The dragons are amazed and compete with each other to become partners with the people making the pitch.

For those around for the momentary craze that was Power Balance (I actually wrote a post about Kingston Police selling them in a fundraising campaign)  both pitches seem a little too familiar, as they all involve a balance test, a change that doesn't seem to have an impact on balance, and then instantaneously after the product is used the person's balance has dramatically improved.

How is this done? Well, Brian Brushwood over at Scam School documents a variety of ways that it could be done and explainings the trick of instantaneous improvement in balance. Brian does such a good job that from watching the video once I've now been able to perform the trick on other people and explain how it was done. It's pretty easy to do, and I could see how someone could trick themselves into thinking that something else was the cause of the change in balance. The way to invalidate the balance test so that a person feels off balance in the first test and then when tested again feels that they have much more balance is pretty simple. When you want a person to be off balance push or pull that person at an angle that is away from their center of gravity (pretty much at any an angle away from where their feet are) and if you want them to feel more balanced push/pull towards the center of gravity (towards where their feet are works well). If you watch the Dragon's Den clips you can see that change taking place.

See a difference? 
Look at the direction of the wrist 

When Power Balance was required to show that their claims we different from the trick described above it resulted in a lost court case and a 57 million dollar settlement. Now, those bracelets have to make their claims in the vague way that Q-Ray bracelets do after they too lost a lawsuit involving unsubstantiated claims which resulted in the company having to return 87 million dollars.

With that background, the specific companies and the scientific backing for their claims can be examined, as each has company has a page dedicated to 'science'.

Neuro Reset is said to work through a "subtle energy pattern that wakes up the sensory nerve receptors", That pattern effect is said to be the product of 7 years of clinical research...which doesn't seem to be time well spent because that research wasn't even worth publishing on Neuro Resets's own "The Science" page explaining how it worked, let alone being research published in an academic journal.

This one is more obvious 
Check out his fingers and wrist 

Further, it is interesting that a technology that could improve the function of joints in the back and spine is being marketed to golfers and isn't being used to help people with medical issues that could be resolved if the claims being made were true. 

Neuro Reset even does the classic woo tactic of using the word 'quantum' as a justification in a way that doesn't make any sense, as the device's communication is said to work through quantum entanglement. Quantum entanglement is complicated, and I won't do it justice here, but it can be broken down into the understanding that when two particles are entangled and the same measurement is made on those particles the result will be the same regardless of the distance between those two particles in what was measured. What is important here is that entanglement shows no way to effect neuropathways in their functioning, and the No-Communication Theorem points out that there is probably no communication between the entangled particles.

On the other hand what is encouraging is that, despite its name, New Age Performance does have a legitimate science page and makes a plausible, non-quantum, claim. The page even has a few real published studies about how bite alignment improves athletic performance and a double-blinded study that found significant results for the New Age Performance style mouthguard. This science page was night and day from Neuro Resets mumbo jumbo, unfortunately, even if those tests were correct none of those tests remotely demonstrated the balance affect seen on Dragon's Den. That test was misleading, unethical and unnecessary, because if the product worked in the way that is documented on companies science page it wasn't needed.

Yet it doesn't seem that the evidence on the side of New Age Performance. While the studies linked on their webpage are positive, there are many negative follow up studies that are ignored, 1 (although it did have an effect on the hight of jumps), 2 (no positive effects), 3 (no positive effects), 4  (no positive effects), 5 (positive effects with power, but otherwise negative), 6 (no positive effects).

It seems that the study into the theory of jaw alignments effect on performance is much more negative than positive, and this isn't just my conclusion it was also the conclusion of the British Advertising Authority. The BAA reviewed similar claims made by Underarmour Performance Mouthware and despite Underarmour having a similar science page to New Age Performance, it was ruled that on multiple claims their ads were misleading and lacked substantiation.

I think the major lesson is that if something is claimed to immediately change your balance through a mechanism that seems strange or is hard to understand then it is likely taking advantage of a balance trick. That said can't the Dragons Den get one Marc Cuban style shark that displays a smidgen of skepticism? They did say it sounded 'too good to be true' it's a disapointed that the questioning stopped there and only further disapointment that each of those companies got offered deals and were legitimized by the whole process. 

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