Sony has made an in-shirt air conditioner

An air conditioner you can wear.
An air conditioner you can wear.
Image: Sony
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Sony has a new device for anyone who’s ever wished they could carry their air conditioner with them on sweltering summer days.

Called Reon Pocket, the small, lightweight gadget slides into the upper back pocket of a specially designed t-shirt. Controlled with a smartphone app, it’s capable of heating or cooling the wearer via the Peltier effect, a thermodynamic principle widely used in refrigeration.

The Reon Pocket comes out of Sony’s startup acceleration program, and Sony is currently crowdfunding the device (link in Japanese). Supporters can choose from a few different packages, if they want multiple t-shirts for instance, but a basic one including the device and one shirt costs ¥14,080 (about $130). There’s a catch, though: Sony only has plans to release the Reon Pocket in Japan at present.

According to a spokesperson, the target audience is mostly businessmen who have to wear a suit in the summer, though the company says it will judge its wider relevance based on the crowdfunding results. Right now, though, the t-shirts available come in men’s sizes, in small, medium, or large.

The device is meant to fit invisibly under other clothing, and it’s not really for all-day use so much as moving between air-conditioned or heated areas, such as during the commute to work. The battery takes around two hours to charge and lasts about 90 minutes.

With the Reon Pocket, Sony joins the ranks of those working on temperature-regulating clothing. On the more tech-forward end are examples such as French label Courrèges, which debuted coats with built-in heaters a few years ago, and the US Army, which is experimenting with conductive fabrics that can generate heat in extreme cold. More commonplace examples include Uniqlo, which has been successful with its Heattech and Airism underlayers, and a number of brands making shirts meant to offer the comfort and sweat-wicking properties of athletic wear.

In a blog post (link in Japanese) from Sony’s startup accelerator, Yoichi Ito, a project lead on Reon Pocket, said people have become increasingly focused on functionality and comfort in their clothing. In 2017, his team started thinking of ways they could blend technology with fashion to reach those goals. Reon Pocket was the result.

Japanese buyers looking to battle the record heat this summer will have to wait, though. If the crowdfunding is successful, deliveries of the device are scheduled to begin in March 2020.