Aaaand here’s the short version!
So I really like strange wearables. Especially if they’re related to temperature. Or perceptions of temperature!
I want air-conditioning systems to work less for me. For this, I need to want less, which is difficult!
Tracking my data is part of a path to find the minimum conditions I need to be in comfort.
That aside, let’s get to the products!
(Fun fact: Humans have been getting cooler, one of the reasons being less chronic inflammatory conditions over the past bunch of centuries. Woohoo!)
As these products are not your usual smartphone or watch, I’ll be briefly going through their underlying technology first before going through the experience of using it. Feel free to skip those bits if you wish!
The Embr Wave
With Singapore’s intense heat and furious use of aircon, the idea of bringing cooling direct to our bodies was something worth a ($300+) try to me. Exciting new powers of personalized air-conditioning would make sweatingonthewaytowork a figment of the past. I would be so cool. Ha.
So the Wave doesn’t really do that!
How it Works:
The Wave contains a peltier plate, which becomes cool on one side and hot on the other side when you pass an electric current through it.
This is called thermoelectric cooling – it’s a super-cool effect which we use for regulating the temperature of scientific devices and other tiny electronics.
To reject the heat on the other side, peltier plates are often combined with heat sinks (Metal blocks with a lot of ridged parts on them for more surface area) to dissipate this heat away. This explains the wiggly lines on the Embr Wave’s surface! The higher surface area is helpful to more efficiently dissipate heat when being used in Cooling mode.
Does it actually cool you?
Sssssorta. It’s the kind of cooling you would expect on a hot day when you dip your hands into cold water. Or suddenly touch a cold, metal doorknob.
On heating mode, it’s like when you’re in a cold room and cup your hands around a warm mug of coffee.
This pulse of cooling or heating is applied to the underside of your wrist, which has a solid amount of bloodflow and is very thermally sensitive.
The pulse of cold doesn’t remain constant – it comes in waves! According to Embr, this maximizes the feeling you get from each pulse, which I can verify. Having a constant source of cold on your skin tends to be forgotten – receiving waves makes them feel ‘new’ every time.
The Embr Wave comes with a pretty great app, which is where you can set these custom modes for yourself!
Overall, the psychological effect of cold hits slowly over time – I ‘feel’ it more keenly after an extended session with the Wave (like 30-60mins). It’s not exactly the aircon-everywhere I was hoping for, but could be valuable to someone looking for that last squeeze of comfort in a space that is always slightly too hot or cold.
The design is a little blocky for laptop use, as it sticks out the bottom of your wrist! This results in occassional collisions which is not so nice. Also, the Wave 1 is charged by micro-USB (the horror!), but Embr is nice enough to include a cable in the box.
Nonetheless, Embr Labs just recently released an Embr Wave 2 in April, with a sleeker design and, according to them, stronger cooling.
The GreenTEG CORE sensor
The CORE is super cool!
So I was walking to the mall in the BLAZING hot sun one day (normal in Singapore these days, the weather’s been nuts!) and wondered the following:
Would I sweat sooner if I walked slowly in this blazing heat, thereby spending a longer time under the skin-melting gaze of Sauron, on my way to get some KFC?
Or would I sweat sooner if I ran to my dearsweet KFC, thereby spending a shorter duration under the sun, but spending more metabolic energy to do so?
I needed some way to track my core temperature and skin temperature in real time, and graph this against my activity level. It would not be feasible to walk with a thermometer in my mouth. I didn’t have a thermometer pill.
Before investing the remainder of my life into starting a company to research and make such a method + app to track data of such method in realtime, luckily I found out about the GreenTEG CORE!
So you strap this little thing onto your chest, and it senses your skin temperature and their proprietary heat flux sensor to back-calculate your body’s core temperature to a ±0.26°C accuracy. Then it streams this real-time to an APP, which you can LOOK AT in REAL TIME. It was exactly what I wanted!
How it Works
GreenTEG uses a combination of skin temperature, heartbeat and their own research-based algorithms to generate a core temperature that hasgiven super close results to pill thermometers. The CORE is enabled with two algorithms – one incorporating heartrate (Sports Activity Algorithm) and one without (Everyday Living Algorithm). As changes in core temperature do not immediately reach the skin, the Sports Activity Algorithm takes in heartbeat data to come up with a more accurate and immediate figure for core temperature, needed by athletes who require immediate feedback for their sport!
So I got the heartrate sensor too!
For those who find this uncomfortable, the CORE comes with one-day-use adhesive pads too!
As the CORE is relatively simple in function (clip+strap), it’s really all about the app!
While the CORE app doesn’t allow a direct CSV download (yet?) unless you pay a fee for a Research Mode or a Garmin device, you’ll be able to track and set alerts when your core temperature goes off the charts. Here’s me at high activity:
And another steep ramp-up:
And here’s the effect of a sudden heartrate drop:
As you can see, the body takes a while to return back to the normal core temperature of about 37°C!
While I love the functionality and will be saving the detailed analysis for another post, I do wish I could see both graphs on the same creen to observe the timings! Another gripe would be that the app sometimes resets the tracking when the bluetooth connection is lost, but GreenTEG continues to push over-the-air updates to improve this over time (this is why you get the app-enabled tech)
The FOCI Wearable
It’s a little clippy thing that goes on your waist, pushed against your diaphragm to track your breathing patterns! The FOCI was a strange little find on kickstarter, when I was looking for something nondescript to track my breathing patterns over the course of a day!
How does it work?
The FOCI tracks tiny breathing movements and translates this into a predicted cognitive state with the ‘neuro-respiratory patterns’ identified by their AI model. These states are broken down into Focused, Calm, Stressed, Fatigued, Distracted and Flow.
The FOCI is 10g, super lightweight and easy to clip on without noticing, and easily hideable. However, as it can’t get a clear signal while you move around, the only accurate readings come from when you are seated.
While my personal use with the FOCI has been quite brief, so far I’ve found that it quite accurately tracks whether I am in focus or not! While the little bubble moves with your breath, making it fun to look at and track your breathing state, I’ve also found that the best way to maintain focus is to not look at it while you’re tracking yourself.
Overall, while I am interested to see where TinyLogics takes the app and device (graph my breathing please!)
That’s all for the Embr Wave, the CORE and the FOCI! You can comment or subscribe if you like this, or let me know if you’d like to know more about these cool tools!
I’ll do another big review when I gather more interesting tech! (Reon Pocket, I’m looking at you.)
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