Review: Embr Wave – Your personal thermostat
It’s both cool and hot, which makes it awesome.
I’m one of those people who is always too hot, no matter the weather. Seriously, I only stop wearing shorts when there are two feet of snow on the ground (and only then if I’m told not to). Summer in the humid Maryland coast finds me hunkered down inside, where’s there’s a sensible central air system to keep me vaguely in my comfort zone. It might be hell for my utility bill, but it’s necessary.
What if I didn’t have to hibernate during the warmer months, like some kind of reverse-grizzly bear? What if I could brave the hot outdoors, knowing that a cooling breeze was just a touch of a button away at all times? That’s the promise of the Embr Wave, a $300 wrist-worn personal temperature regulator.
The science bit
So you know how when you splash cold water on your wrists you feel cooler? Or if you hold a hot cup of cocoa and you feel warmer all over? Well, the Embr Wave is basically the high-tech version of that. It uses the Peltier effect to either cool or warm the ceramic underside of the unit, which then makes your wrist feel cold or hot. Pretty simple in practice, with some pretty complex physics running the show.
Then it’s up to your nervous system. Since your body is sensitive to temperature differences, changing the temperature of one spot on your skin makes your brain feel like your whole body has also felt that sensation. It’s why wet socks make the rest of your body shiver, and why a stray ray of sunlight can make you feel warm on a winter’s day.
The Embr Wave also applies cold or heat in waves, maximizing the effect while prolonging battery life.
So what’s it like to use?
I’ve been testing one out for a month in which the average daily temperature has been in the high 80s, when I’d usually be hiding from the sun during the day. Even our AC struggles when it’s this warm (top apartment), so any way to enhance my comfort is a bonus. The Embr Wave has so far been put through its paces at church (where I have to wear long pants), multiple days out, daily trips to the store/trash/etc, and the ongoing reorganization of our apartment to be more baby-friendly. It’s done pretty well at keeping me comfortable, with a couple of minor caveats.
Let’s get the caveats out of the way first: You might feel cooler, but your body is still warm. That possibly increases your risk of heatstroke, etc, so make sure you stay hydrated. The Wave also needs a while to cool down between sessions, so the heatsink goes back to ambient temperature. Without that, the “ice-cube on your wrist” feeling at the 11f setting turns into a minty breath feeling. Oh, and be careful with the outer side (where the heatsink is) if you have kids. It doesn’t get warm enough to hurt, but you don’t want to be warming them up more in this weather.
When the Wave isn’t re-balancing itself after a session, it worked great for me. I might not have sweated any less doing chores or carting stuff to the dumpster, but I felt so much better about it. It’s really like running your arm under a cold stream, or wandering around with a handheld fan – those few degrees away from the ambient temperature makes all the difference.
I can see it working even better once the weather turns to the cold again. While the cooling sessions only go down 11f from ambient, the heating ones can go up to 16f above. That’s enough to fool your brain into feeling like you’re toasty warm, assuming you don’t have any wet clothing or other sources of cold touching your skin.
Bear in mind that the stylish aluminum device is pretty hefty, I have big wrists and the Wave looked big even on me. The magnetically-clasped Milanese band is a nice touch, even if it disagreed with my arm hair.
Control your comfort
The Wave can be controlled by the lightbar on the device, with tapping the blue or red areas providing the corresponding temperature changes. That only does the quick boost which runs for a few minutes, enough to stop you going into the red but not enough for prolonged comfort.
For that, you need the companion app, which lets you control the built-in modes, update the device, and also make custom sessions, depending on if you want alertness or comfort. It works well, pairs quickly, and also graphs your sessions so you can dive into the how and why of your daily use.
So should I buy it?
For all the added comfort the Embr Wave has given me in what’s turning into a heatwave, it’s still a niche device. It will make you more comfortable, but the effect of that comfort is very subjective. It also won’t actually change your overall body temperature, so it’s not a survival tool or a nifty way to lower your AC bill.
That said, anyone who suffers from hot flashes, chills, or any of the myriad ways that our bodies fool our minds into thinking we’re at a different temperature to our surroundings should seriously consider the Embr Wave. It’s starting to change my life already.
A sample unit was provided for the purpose of this review.
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