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Are “Personal Air Conditioners” in our Future?


Back in 2013, a group of four MIT students entered a design contest. Their concept? A wearable device that would change your body’s sense of the temperature. By flashing warming or cooling pulses onto your wrist, the device could make you feel slightly warmer or cooler. Personal air conditioning was the idea.

It would mean that a person would not need to adjust the room’s thermometer a degree or two to make incremental adjustments in temperature. Instead, he or she could just tap his or her wristband to feel warmer or cooler.

The device, which they dubbed “Wristify,” won the design contest. Cambridge, Massachusetts has cold blasts and winter swelters as extreme as those in Cincinnati, so MIT was an appropriate place to craft such a concept. Air conditioners work overtime in those Boston summers.

The four students turned the concept into a company, and eight years later, Wristify has morphed into Embr Labs. The product available is the “Embr Wave,” a $300 bracelet that enables you to warm up or cool down by pressing a button on your wrist.

But does it work? In a 2020 review for Wired magazine, Matt Jancer gave the Embr Wave a 7 out of 10. Jancer wrote that he noticed the change most when interacting with the rest of the room. He would touch his aluminum laptop and it felt like ice. Since his wrist was tricking his body into thinking he was warm, the laptop’s actual temperature startled him.

Might such devices help us save money by making us less reliant on our heaters and air conditioners? That has yet to be seen, but we will pay attention to this emerging market.

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