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Sony’s cool idea for summer: a personal air conditioner that hides under your clothes

By Benjamin Bullard
Solar flare on the Sun

Finally, a gadget that lets us declare a small but unconditional victory over the oppressive summertime heat: a portable, personal AC that hides in your T-shirt and promises to lower your core temperature — even if it isn't exactly to superheroic levels — when you’re braving the muggy outdoors.

After teasing its Reon Pocket wearable cooling system for months, Sony released the cool little device earlier this month in Japan. Originally aimed at attendees at the 2020 Tokyo Summer games before the coronavirus pandemic forced the Olympics’ cancelation, the Reon nevertheless has now made its way into the wild, where it’s chillin’ underneath wearers’ clothes.

Sized about like a bar of soap and resembling a high-tech cross between a wireless mouse and a baby monitor, say hello to what could be your secret weapon in the fight against those scorching dog days of summer:

How does it work? Using the heat-transferring Peltier effect (named for the 19th-Century French physicist who first discovered it), the Reon essentially uses electricity to transfer heat away from your body and swap it out with the cooler air the exchange creates. It’ll do the job anywhere it comes into contact with your skin (even if you just hold it in your hand), but Sony sells the Reon with a custom-made T-shirt that has a pocket for the device in the back, right between your shoulder blades.

The Verge’s Sam Byford reports on the Reon’s effectiveness after testing out the gadget since its July 6 release in Japan, and says it’s, well, better than nothing for taking the edge off Tokyo’s heat and humidity.

“I did find, generally, that the Reon Pocket improved matters somewhat, even on its lowest cooling setting,” he wrote, after taking the Reon for a walk on an 86-degree day. “I was definitely still sweating by the time I got home, but the cooling sensation does make a difference while you’re actually out there in the heat…You’re still going to feel like you’re in a hot, sweaty environment, but you’ll take what you can get.”

The Reon charges via USB, and reportedly can chill continuously for 2-3 hours before needing a plug-in. It comes with its own smart phone app (so you can command your Reon via Bluetooth while on the go), and costs about $120 — though for now, there’s no word if Sony has plans to market the device outside of Japan. There are already examples of the Reon going up for sale at eBay (with a price markup, of course), so it’s at least a cool compromise that the app comes with an English-language option for all the U.S. buyers looking to reclaim at least a little comfort back from sweltering nature.