This really makes so much sense. It happens to be a partial fix that expands our thresholds in either direction. We already knew that the human body can adapt to serious temperature differences. how we get to manage that.
An obhvious follow up is a device capable of making a difference regarding our core temperature. Get that under management and we can work comfortably in difficult conditions for a reasonable time period. The same technology can also monitor and inform when we have reached our physical limits and provide urgent warning.
If there is a way to keep our core warm or cold then we can extend human capabilities without the effort to train into those conditions..
MIT Wristband Could Make AC Obsolete
All of that adds up to a big problem. At a point when humans need to take a sober look at our energy use, we’re poised to use a devastating amount of it keeping our homes and offices at the right temperatures in years to come. A team of students at MIT, however, is busy working on a prototype device that could eliminate much of that demand, and they’re doing it by asking one compelling question: Why not just heat and cool our bodies instead?
Shames runs hot. His mom runs cold. He figured there must be a way for them to coexist peacefully. So he started researching, digging into physiology journals to get a better understanding of how we experience temperature. One paper held the key to the Wristify concept. It detailed how locally heating and cooling different parts of the body has all sorts of effects on how hot or cold we are–or, more accurately, how hot or cold we think we are. “There’s a big perceptual component to it,” Shames says.
“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.” Think of what happens when you jump in a lake. At first, it’s bracingly cold, but after a while, you get used to it. By continually introducing that sudden jolt of cold, Shames discovered, you could essentially trick the body into feeling cold. Wristify basically makes you feel like you’re continually jumping into the lake–or submerging into a hot bath.
In building the prototype, Shames and his co-inventors–Mike Gibson, a second-year Ph.D. student; David Cohen-Tanugi, a fourth-year Ph.D. student, and Matt Smith, a postdoctoral researcher–had the challenge of figuring out how to best exploit that perceptual tick. The research suggested that anything with a temperature change greater than 0.1 degree Celsius per second would produce the effect. Their wristband, which harnesses thermoelectrics to both heat and cool a patch of skin, is capable of changing that surface at a rate of 0.4 degrees Celsius per second.
If it comes together, though, it would be a compelling sell–a wearable that offered personalized, dynamic climate control. It might not solve the AC energy problem in one fell swoop, but it could nudge us away from the central-heating-and-cooling mindset that is taking us there–more of a next-gen fan or handwarmer than a full heating and cooling replacement. It’s certainly an intriguing approach. As Shames says, “Why heat or cool a building when you could heat or cool a person?”