This bracelet claims to be a 'personal thermostat'—does it actually work?
We tested the Embr Wave to see if this device delivers on its promise
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Maybe you’re a person who runs too hot. Or too cold. The fact is, no temperature will ever be perfect for everyone. One person may prefer the air to be 65 degrees with 65% humidity, another would be more comfortable with it warmer and dryer. While HVAC technology can precisely control indoor environment, you may have to win a battle over the thermostat to customize it to your exact preference, and that personal comfort could go out the door if you, well, go outside.
At this point in society’s technological evolution you would think we’d have an easy way to control the atmosphere in our own personal space. Companies are trying. Enter the Embr Wave, a marvelously weird device that promises to regulate your body temperature through your wrist, for the not-so-bargain price of $299.
What is Embr Wave?
The wrist-worn device—just a little bigger than an Apple Watch—comes with an inch-wide magnetic metal strap that fastens it around your arm. You wear the Embr Wave on the inside of your wrist, directly against the pulse point said to be so sensitive to temperature change that targeting it with heat or cold can thermoregulate the entire body. Pressing a button on the device makes it heat up (or cool down) against your wrist, which then—according to the manufacturers—warms (or cools) the rest of you. There's also an app you can use to change the temperature with a little more control.
Does Embr Wave work?
I wore the Embr Wave on and off for a few weeks to test it out and see whether or not it could keep me cool in a heat wave or warm me up in overzealous office air conditioning. The verdict: The Embr Wave is a nifty idea built into a clunky, awkward, and expensive novelty that is far from delivering on its promise.
In one sense, the Embr Wave does exactly what it claims. When you wear the device, a spot on your wrist will feel the warmth or coolness it emits, and it’s a pleasant, even intriguing, sensation. The cooling phase, in particular, goes against your natural expectations that a surface will warm with your touch, so there’s something counterintuitive and interesting about it.But the temperature change, to me at least, seemed limited to that approximate one-inch square. The Embr Wave didn’t—and can’t—change the surrounding environment or lower the dew point. It didn’t calm my heart rate after walking up four flights of stairs or prevent a shiver in icy office air. If you’re in a stuffy subway car, it won’t cool you down enough to stop that bead of sweat from slipping down your back, no matter how low you set the temperature.
What do others think of the Embr Wave?
I can’t speak for people who have internal issues with thermal regulation. My body temperature seems to regulate itself normally; I've only had issues when suffering from fevers and one unfortunate hypothermia incident after a day of snow skiing. People who are susceptible to minor weather changes might find the Embr Wave more useful than I do.
My coworker Melissa Rorech is one of those people. When she saw what I was testing, she became excited and asked to borrow it to counteract her uncomfortably hot train rides to and from the office. At 9:30 PM that night, I got a Slack message with her first, punctuation-heavy reaction: “I don’t like this!!!!!” She elaborated the next morning, “I was hoping the Embr Wave could keep me cool and sweat-free on my commute to and from work, but alas, it did next to nothing. If anything, the slight increase of cold is so shocking that it doesn’t even feel good. It doesn’t travel through my body at all, so it’s just my wrist that’s affected.”Our colleague Jon Chan agreed. “In my opinion, this device is akin to Tiger Balm—a method of distraction,” he told me after trying it. “It's too small to provide any type of long term comfort or prevent heatstroke or hypothermia. It's a novel sensation for sure, like pressing an ice cube to your wrist.”
Jon’s right. It’s unusual to feel the temperature change so quickly on your wrist, and that sensation can redirect your attention away from any miserable environmental factors. The first time we reviewed the Embr Wave we thought the placebo effect was the device's main attribute, and my testing backs that up. There were times while I was testing where I couldn’t tell if I felt any warmer overall, or was just sidetracked from the frigid office air by the strange device on my wrist. During one memorable moment, I pushed the Embr Wave to its highest temperature—and still watched goosebumps rise on my forearm.
What’s it like to wear the Embr Wave?
Forget the temperature part of this for a moment. The Embr Wave is cumbersome and annoying to wear. It weighs 79.4 grams, about the weight of an Apple Watch, and lighter than some other fancy watches out there. But, because it sits on the inside of your wrist, it obstructs more movements than a watch would. It was difficult to type on my laptop because the Embr Wave kept knocking the edge of my computer. I couldn’t wear this device and work at the same time, which meant I often had to remove it in order to finish up an email. If this personal temperature device is supposed to be aimed at office workers, then the form factor should be designed to accommodate essential modern work product like keyboards.
Is the Embr Wave worth it?
If you’re in good health, have access to the thermostat, and plan on using your hands to do things like type or wear long sleeves, this device isn’t worth your money. And even if you don’t fall into all of those categories, you might be better off looking elsewhere. For the $299 price of an Embr Wave, you can buy the Keystone KSTAW05B window air conditioner (our pick for the best window AC for small rooms) and the Lasko 754200, our value choice for the best space heater, and still have enough left over to buy either a wearable ice vest or a cozy blanket.
If your goal is to have a neat toy to show off, and you have $299 to spare, then you might find the Embr Wave worthwhile. This device was a source of curiosity in our office during the time I was testing it, and a number of my of my coworkers got to try it out. As Jon Chan told me, “the highlight, in my mind, is running around introducing people to this strange sensation,” and there’s definitely fun in that. But turning that momentary, yet notable feeling into sustained personal comfort is still a ways off.