Sam Shames is an MIT student who had spent a lot of time dealing with a fairly common problem: he tends to run hot while his mom tends to run cold. Sam realized that there had to be a better way to accommodate them both.
He set about doing research on how our bodies regulate temperature. In one particular paper, he found some key information: the study talked about how locally heating or cooling small areas on our body can have major effects on how cold or hot we feel overall.
The research suggested that any change in temperature faster than 0.1º Celsius per second would produce the perceptual sensation of feeling cooler or warmer. Using this information, Sam and a team of fellow MIT students designed Wristify.
The key is keeping the wearer from getting acclimated to the colder or warmer temperature. Here’s Sam discussing this concept:
“The human body and human skin is not like a thermometer. If I put something cold directly on your body at a constant temperature, the body acclimates and no longer perceives it as cold.”
To avoid this problem, Wristify has a 15 second cycle: 5 seconds on, then 10 seconds off.
By sending these regular shocks of cold or hot temperature into the wrist (they are able to change the temperature by up to 0.4º C per second), the device tricks our mind into thinking we are either cooler or warmer than we actually are.
The device is still very much a prototype, made of $50 worth of various electronics and wires strapped to an old fake Rolex band. The team is extremely excited to take the next step of development, making the device more comfortable and aesthetically pleasing.
They are also confident that their idea has the potential to revolutionize how we heat and cool ourselves. As Sam puts it,
“Why heat or cool a building when you could heat or cool a person?”
87% of Americans used air conditioning in 2007. While developing countries like Brazil (11%) and India (2%) used significantly less air conditioning than the U.S. in 2007, it is predicted that by 2025, large emerging countries like these will account for more than a billion new consumers.
Despite having less than 4.5% of the world’s population, the U.S. accounts for nearly 20% of total energy consumption. 16.5% of our total energy use here in the States comes from air conditioning.
So with the amount of demand for air conditioning expected to explode over the next decade, Wristify may be our way of limiting how much energy we consume.
Not to mention you can share a room with both your always-cold and always-hot friends and family without igniting a civil war over the thermostat.
Read more from Wired here.