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17 January 2017

Wristify Tricks Your Brain into Feeling Warm (or Cold)

Niccolo Casas
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has pioneered some of the world’s most innovative research and development projects to date. Just last year its Cheetah 2 robot went viral when it managed to land a series of running jumps over various obstacles in testing. Indeed, another exciting invention to emerge from the university of late has been Wristify: a wrist-mounted device, akin to a chunky bracelet, which acts as a miniature thermostat.

However, it’s not for homes and office buildings: it’s for people.

Over-confidence? - img: Niccolo Casas

EMBR Labs, the company developing the futuristic product, was founded by four former MIT students in summer 2013 after the first proof-of-concept prototypes were created. There are various potential designs currently out there; including the futuristic model by Niccolo Casas pictured above. However, the truly remarkable feature of the bracelet is what it can do in terms of function.

In short, it can warm you up or cool you down at the push of a button. Sounds unbelievable? Well, it sort of is. Wristify doesn’t actually make people warmer or colder – but it can make wearers feel either way. In other words, the goal of EMBR Labs is to “improve thermal comfort.”

An early Wristify pitch to investors – img: SuperbCrew

As Sam Shames, co-founder of the project, explains: “we can make you more comfortable without changing your core temperature by focusing on the temperature at the skin. Rapidly changing part of the skin’s temperature can immediately make you more comfortable, just like when you splash water on your face. Our safe, patent pending technology uses high rates of temperature change applied directly to the skin, engineered for comfort by understanding our basic biology of temperature change.”

The inspiration for the project came when the four students noticed how often people seemed to have different perceptions of temperature when sitting in the same room. Whereas some might call a room freezing, others could happily wear T-shirts. The initial aim was to help everyone stay comfortable, wherever they are. However, as development rolled on and brainstorming sessions dug out new ideas, it was soon realised that the technology had an even more important potentiality: environmentalism.

It may sound counter intuitive. Why might wearing an electric bracelet rather than a coat help the environment?

One reason is probably that most people feel too socially insecure to wear coats indoors (even though they really shouldn’t - it’s practical, as I argued, compellingly, last week). A more popular alternative would be turning up the heating, costing huge energy consumption through thermostats, air conditioning units, fans and heaters. Wearing a cool new gadget on one’s wrist, however, would reduce demand for such conventional tools by allowing individuals to regulate their own body temperature, up or down – or, at least, their perception of what their body temperature is.

The technology is still in development and a launch date is yet to be announced. However, with hoverboards and iPads and robots all over the place nowadays, the future is rapidly becoming the now. So, if Fallout 3 and Fututrama were anything to go by, personal, wearable bracelet technology is a must-have for our progress toward material nirvana.


James Stannard

James has a Bachelor’s degree in History and wrote his dissertation on beef and protest. His heroes list ranges from Adele to Noam Chomsky: inspirations he’ll be invoking next year when he begins a Master’s degree in London.