Back to The Future II got a lot right about the present more than 25 years ago; Nike has debuted power-lacing sneakers, Lexus has come very close to an actual hovering hoverboard, there’s a company working on a commercial version of the Master-cook, and autonomous drones are becoming advanced enough that soon they will be used to walk dogs. Now, there’s a smart jacket that comes very close to mimicking Marty’s futuristic apparel.
It’s called, FlexWarm. It isn’t quite self-drying, but it does control its own temperature, so you can count on it to warm you up if you do end up getting a little soggy. And there’s a lot more to it than temperature control.
One of the more advanced pieces of clothing (soon to be) available, FlexWarm’s smart jacket lets you use a mobile app to set specific temperatures for different regions of your body (chest, back, and hands). The jacket then maintains those temperature levels even while ambient temperatures vary – it’s able to do this with the help of two sensors, one internal and one external.
FlexWarm houses heating elements based on thick film technology. These heated film panels are packed into layers of goose down, nylon and more layers of padding, preventing them from getting in direct contact with users’ bodies. The panels are only 0.5 mm thick, so they don’t significantly affect the size of the jacket. The use of nylon ensures that the jacket is waterproof, machine-washable, windproof, and tear-resistant.
To replenish the heating panels, you simply connect the 5V lithium ion battery that comes with the jacket to a USB powerbank. Once charged, the battery will be able to power the heating panels to produce a maximum of 149º F, distributed across the jacket. Heating can be initiated using a button on the jacket or via the accompanying iOS/Android app. Flexwarm communicates with the app over Bluetooth.
FlexWarm isn’t just planning to offer an easy way to stay warm given external temperatures; the team plans on adding an emergency response mechanism if a user’s internal temperature drops below a certain level.
The project is currently on Kickstarter, and has already raised almost all of its $50,000 funding goal with nearly 2 months left to go. $219 sets you up with a jacket in the color and size of your choice. If the crowdfunding campaign is a success (and it looks like it will be), mass production will commence in June and deliveries will kick off in the fall.
Prateek Jose is a writer and engineering undergrad from India with an unhealthy obsession for obscure historical trivia. Conversations about absurdist fiction and the technological singularity make his day. He’s already uploading parts of his brain to servers by writing for websites such as this one.
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