It’s hot. Have you noticed? Extreme heat is becoming the new normal around the world, and consumer demand for air-conditioning is rising along with the temperatures. By one count, there will be 4.5 billion air-conditioning units on the planet by 2050—units that, ironically, contribute to climate change. Stepping into the fold are companies like Sony, small startups, and researchers at major universities, all of whom are searching for a way to cool people down without conventional AC. These wearable cooling devices make it possible to stay cool without having to cool down an entire building, but they could help people survive in sweltering outdoor situations too. Unsurprisingly, Sony is targeting Japan, which will host the Summer Olympics in 2020, for its first launch—but other startups are hot on its heels. The race is on to design and ship these emerging devices. Are they effective enough to catch on?
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