Ever worked in an office in which you’re always sitting at your desk layered in sweaters, even when the temperature outside is a balmy 72 degrees, because the air conditioning is set so low it feels like winter? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, this problem is so prevalent in offices that a team of MIT students have developed a new wearable called Wristify, designed to make you feel warmer or cooler in your own environment by exploiting two basic properties of human temperature perception.
(Photo Credit: Justin Farrey/Flickr)
Wristify is a bracelet that applies small, sudden changes in temperature to the skin of the person wearing it. Human skin is very sensitive to these types of changes. For instance, a change of as little 0.1°C can make a person feel several degrees warmer or colder. Additionally, if you apply a certain amount of heat to an area of your skin, it actually affects your perception of temperature overall.
The gadget works by attaching a copper-alloy heat sink to your wrist and then using electric currents provided by a lithium polymer battery, to send warm or cool pulses into your skin based on your personal preferences. These pulses make your body feel warmer or cooler overall, even though the air temperature hasn’t changed.
Last year, Wristify took the $10,000 top prize at MIT’s annual MADMEC competition, which had an emphasis on “materials science solutions for sustainability.” As Wristify can affect how warm or cold an individual feels, rather than requiring drastic changes to an entire building’s environment, it has the potential to save a significant amount of energy-related resources.
However, it’s important to note that Wristify will never become a replacement for air conditioning or heat. In order to be physiologically healthy, the human body needs to maintain an average internal temperature of about 98.6° F. If this drops significantly, the body becomes hypothermic. (Alternatively, if you are too hot, you become hyperthermic.) Both of these extremes are life-threatening, and factors such as the clothes you wear and the actual temperature of the environment you are in help to maintain your internal temperature.
So while Wristify can help you feel more comfortable, it’s not a good replacement for creating the type of environment you need to actually survive. That said, if the air conditioning in your office is slightly too cold for you to actually get any work done, Wristify might just be what you need to stop arguing about the thermostat — and get back to work.
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