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The effects of global warming are palpable. Heat and cold waves are now more frequent and more extreme. Naturally, we want to feel comfortable and would instinctively rely on air conditioners and radiators to warm up or cool down the spaces we are in. Unfortunately, using them contribute to global warming and force us deeper into a vicious cycle.

What if we could change our perception of the temperature around us, rather than alter the temperature of our environment?

Thermaphones is a pair of headphones with temperature-changing ear buds* that can be adjusted based on the environment we are in and our thermal comfort(1); Ear buds remain cool in hot, humid spaces and warm in cold places. This is empowered by 2 integrated Peltier chips, which precisely control temperatures between 25° and 38°C. Temperatures would fluctuate around a fixed point (e.g. 25° to 28°) and never remain constant for prolonged periods to ensure that sensation is pronounced and more importantly, avoid vertigo(2). Now, people can enjoy good music in great comfort even if we commute in hot, humid train carriages or work in freezing cold office spaces.

*Thermaphones is currently a work-in-progress prototype and hence ear buds are currently made in metal. They would eventually be moulded in a modified polyethylene(3) which conducts and transfers heat; this polymer is developed by a team of researchers at MIT.

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(1) Condition of mind which expresses satisfaction with the thermal environment, i.e. the condition when someone is not feeling either too hot or too cold.

(2) Vertigo is a sensation of feeling off balance and can be caused by temperature changes.



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  • Name:
    Kevin Chiam
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  • Kevin is inspired by:
    Design can be perceived as an open conversation not just between people, but also our environment. Hence, common sense, driven by logic, sensitivity and empathy, is crucial and often a cornerstone for a fruitful dialogue.
    Though trained as an industrial designer, I am essentially a curious explorer at heart. Hence, he observes, question and tinker with the rituals we perform - from mundane tasks to the culturally exotic. This inquisitive nature has led me to pursue a double master’s programme in Innovation Design Engineering at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London.
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