MIT Spin-Offs: Embr Labs

EmbrPhoto courtesy of Embr Labs.

Ever sit shivering in your office building? Or dripping sweat in the muggy months? Three MIT scientists did, and they decided to do something about it.

The Embr Wave Bracelet helps adjust the wearer’s wrist temperature by sending strategic wave patterns to thermoreceptor nerves. While your core body temperature doesn’t change, Embr Labs Co-founder Sam Shames likens it to going outdoors in the winter with or without a hat. “How hot or cold you feel has far more to do with local temperature sensations than your core body temperature,” the company’s website explains.

Embr Labs has evolved to consider not just physical comfort, but the broader realm of “thermal wellness.”

“At any given time, how you feel partially depends on temperature,” says Shames. “If you’re too hot or too cold in a room, that has effects on how well you can focus, but also, even more interestingly, what we’ve found is whether you’re hot or cold affects, say, how friendly you are to other people or how you process stress.”

University of California-Berkeley found that the Embr Wave could have the effect of a five-degree shift in room temperature, according to Shames, which could reduce somewhere between 15 and 35 percent of a building’s cooling and heating energy usage.

The chargeable wristband keeps evolving through software updates to a mobile app. A recent release, for example, is designed to use temperature to help users fall asleep.

“We launched a specific wave form for falling asleep, which, over the course of the 35-minute duration, the rhythm, the time between the warming and cooling waves, slows down, the way your breath slows as you’re falling asleep,” Shames explains. “So it kind of helps put your body into that relaxed state.”

Embr plans to continue developing ways to make its users more comfortable, as evidenced by a new research partnership with Johnson & Johnson to see how the wristband can be used to make menopausal women more comfortable in the face of hot flashes and sleep problems.

This story originally appeared in the Environmental Issue issue of Scout Cambridge, which is available for free at more than 200 locations throughout the city or by subscription.

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