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The next “iPhone moment” won’t be about communication, it’ll be about survival

Wellness products of tomorrow may lengthen the gaps between the haves and the have-nots.

The next “iPhone moment” won’t be about communication, it’ll be about survival
[Photo: Seymourpowell]

Our air is getting dirtier, and our world is getting hotter. It all adds up to a very unpleasant future, especially in cities, where a simple stroll outside could become a sweaty and toxic task.

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[Photo: Seymourpowell]
To combat this dystopia, the design and innovation studio Seymourpowell has developed a provocative concept that’s meant to hang on your neck and provide a microclimate around your head. It’s called Atmosphère. Yes, the metal concept very closely resembles one of those personal air conditioners sold in the Sharper Image catalog circa 1998. Indeed, Atmosphère is meant to operate along the same lines—like a big heat sink, dissipating some of the warmth away from your body.

[Image: Seymourpowell]
But the device’s more experimental features include sensors, which can read your vitals and information from the air at the same time. With this data, the Atmosphère can activate air filtration, add vapor to the air to raise the humidity, or even mist beauty products at your face (like sunblock). In this sense, it’s a very strange hybrid gadget we haven’t really seen to date—a real time beauty product that’s also actively monitoring your health. It’d be like if the Apple Watch weren’t just a pedometer or heart rate sensor but it sprayed self tanner onto your pasty arms and provided a jolt of electricity were your heart to ever stop. Seymourpowell envisions the device as part of a collection of similar devices like a chaise lounge. The metal furniture would cool your body in a too-warm home and provide all the same benefits to your personal microclimate as the worn device.

[Photo: Seymourpowell]

Of course, Atmosphère is a work of virtual science fiction, but its capabilities aren’t so far beyond the reach of current technology. We have the sensors, the air filtering, and all sorts of other methods to vaporize liquids already. Perhaps this collar is a bit small to pack all those technologies inside, and it would need to be recharged too often to be practical today. But Atmosphère certainly seems feasible, which is one reason it’s so haunting.

[Photo: Seymourpowell]

In 2018, a variety of fashion designers presented runway collections inspired by hazmat suits and other elements inspired by sheer survivability. Now with Atmosphère, we’re seeing that same concept of resilience in the face of environmental destruction playing out in the industrial design space. Perhaps it should feel reassuring that so many creators are considering climate change not as an abstract thought but a reality to actively prepare for. But if all these provocations demonstrate anything, it’s that our comfort and safety in the world of tomorrow may directly correlate to the expendable income—and our ability to mitigate climate change’s impacts at a range of just a few inches from our person. It’s as if designers and companies have tacitly determined that we can no longer save the world—but maybe we can save ourselves for a while.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach

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