Wearable interest has never been higher. Between the Pebble, Nike’s FuelBand, and even Google Glass, companies are scrambling to make the next breakthrough gadget. And while many very capably improve how we function during our daily lives, they all more or less do the same thing: track our sleep, show us notifications, remind us to move around. SunSprite promises to be different. This isn’t another calorie counter. SunSprite is the first wearable (that I know of) designed to teach users the benefit of bright light exposure.
It may sound like pseudo-science, but the lack of bright light exposure can have a hugely negative impact on a person’s physical and mental well being. According to a report authored by Jacqueline Olds, M.D., and Richard Schwartz, M.D., our bodies function optimally when we reach “Circadian synchronization,” which helps improve things like sleep, alertness, mood, cognitive performance and overall wellbeing. When that synchronization is thrown off—the most common example of asynchrony is jet lag—it can be difficult to properly function.
SunSprite’s modus operandi is based on what is being referred to as the “rhythm of life.” In a video on the wearable’s Indiegogo page, SunSprite argues that our rhythms have been severely thrown off in the modern age. Whereas people thousands of years ago were always outside, surviving by hunting, building, farming, etc., people today predominantly spend their time indoors, in dimly lit cubicles staring at computer screens. You’re miserable because you hate your job. But you might also be miserable because you get to work before the sun comes up, and don’t leave the office until it’s down. No wonder surfers and other people with outdoor careers seem to be so happy.
This isn’t actually like going outside to get a tan; the report says our reaction to ultraviolet radiation reaching the skin is different. To get the maximum benefits of bright light—studies show light needs to be at 2500 lux (a measurement of light as perceived by the eye)—the light needs to actually enter through your eyes, where it then activates electrical impulses that travel to the hypothalamus. Thus, regulating your circadian rhythm. You don’t need to go sun gazing or anything like that, but simply going outside (for a walk, as an example), or even sitting by a window, will supposedly help boost your mood in a positive way because of the light exposure.
How does the SunSprite help? Through a companion app on your iPhone, SunSprite quantifies your bright light intake, and gently reminds you to take simple actions depending on the readings. When worn on a collar or sleeve, it’ll constantly measure your progress, and give you “scientifically-based” goals in the hopes of improving your overall health and well-being. According to the report, roughly 25 million Americans suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), with 75 million more experiencing mood changes during darker days of winter. With a little encouragement from SunSprite, more conscious light exposure will allegedly combat these symptoms.
SunSprite is small, about the size of a pocket knife, and comes with a magnetic enclosure that can easily clip onto a collar, pocket, or any other piece of clothing. As long as it’s exposed, it’ll do its job. And because it’s solar-powered, you can even leave it on something like a bag strap and never worry about having to take it off to charge. SunSprite comes with dual sensors, measuring both visible and UV light, and will even tell you if the light you’re in (through the smartphone app) is bright enough for your daily intake.
Other features include Bluetooth Smart sync capabilities, custom-built polymer battery, and a series of LEDs that represent 10 percent of your progress for a particular day. Reach 100 percent—about 30 minutes should be all you need if the light is bright enough—and you should seemingly see the benefits of bright light exposure, which has been clinically-proven to improve energy, mood and sleep.
Living in Southern California, where a winter day averages a temperature of about 70 and sunny, I have no real concept of seasonal affective disorder. But all across the world, in places that actually experience different seasons, the lack of bright light could have a negative effect on how you’re feeling. SunSprite, then, is the perfect gadget to help you with your “light therapy,” and put you on a path to feeling better. Staying up late and staring at the artificial light of your tablet isn’t going to cut it. But doing something as simple as looking out the window could be the difference between you feeling “off,” and you feeling upbeat and happy.
SunSprite is debuting on Indiegogo today, officially kicking off its crowd funding campaign. The first 100 devices will be priced at $89, but after that the introductory price will be set at $99. Once/if it reaches retail, SunSprite will be priced at $149, so if you really want it, might as well chip in to get a nice little discount. As of now, devices are expected to ship in late Q2, but before that, SunSprite will make its first public appearance at SWSX this year in early March. For a more in-depth explanation of the benefits of bright light, check out SunSprite’s Indiegogo page.