So far, Embr Labs has pitched Wristify, the prototype bracelet, as a standalone device that heats or cools you so you don’t have to futz with the room thermostat as much. If that works as advertised it would save on both heating/cooling costs and the aggravation caused by temperature-setting spats with family and friends.
But longer term, the startup’s co-founders want to connect that device to your car, your office or your home to open up a real-time temperature feedback loop. Say you’re leaving your office and it’s freezing out; your device could apply heat to your wrists and beam your thermal signature ahead to the awaiting car. A connected car would thus sense that you’re chilly and may need some more heat than normal.
“We want to put Blue Tooth and Wi-Fi into our chip so it can send your temperature preferences not just to your car but to your home and office too,” said Sam Shames, an undergraduate in MIT’s Materials Science and Engineering program and an [company]Embr Labs[/company] co-founder.
“If you can adjust your own temperature one degree, you can get more comfortable and also save 100 times the amount of energy that Wristify uses,” he said.
The idea is that Wristify can take the edge off discomfort by applying pulses of coolness or warmth to your wrist, which makes your whole body seem cooler or warmer. It’s sort of the same principle as splashing your wrists with cold water on hot days. Don’t laugh, it helps.
The benefit is that cooling or warming yourself is much more energy-efficient than cooling or warming up an entire room. And the individualized nature of it means everyone can walk around in what Embr calls their own personal “thermal comfort zones.”
Shames pitched Wristify Saturday at the MIT Global Founders Skills Accelerator Demo day. The startup hopes to broaden field trials for the project this fall and to launch a crowd funding campaign next year. The notion of smart wearable devices that talk to each other will be a key theme at the Structure Connect conference next month.
Thermoelectric cooling is governed by the Peltier effect, which describes heating or cooling caused by electric current flowing across a junction of two different conductors. Basically, as current traverses these junctions, one side heats up while the other side cools down. If you have a series of these junctions, and put a heatsink on the hot side, you can create a very effective heat pump.
There are potentially other, perhaps more frivolous but also more entertaining applications for Wristify. In the grand tradition of Smell-o-vision or Sensurround, Wristify could provide what Shames called an “immersive media experience” at the theater or concert hall.
“Imagine feeling the world turn to ice in Frozen,” he noted. Or to molten lava in Pompeii.