If you have ever spent a long, hot summer day wishing you could somehow carry the indoor air conditioner outside, then Sony may have just the device for you. The Reon Pocket is a small AC unit designed to be worn just above your shoulder blades in a lightweight, flexible neck harness, where it delivers cool air down your back. You can use a smartphone app to control the temperature and cooling power manually, or let the unit do the work—it automatically adjusts the optimum cooling temperature according to the wearer's behavior and environment, factors it detects through motion sensors. The most recent iteration, Reon Pocket 3, was released this year, and features a cooling efficiency that's 50% better than the previous model.
As for its lasting power, the unit will keep you cool for hours worth of daily outings and light exercise, such as walking, golf, or even casual cycling. The unit's built-in battery (which fully charges in about 100 minutes via USB-C), lasts from eight to 61 hours in cooling mode, depending on the intensity, and from 27 to 54 hours in warming mode (yes, it acts as a personal heater, as well).
The initial idea for the Reon Pocket came from Kenji Ito, now the general manager of the REON Business Office. Ito designed a prototype of a wearable heating and cooling device after a business trip to Shanghai. While there, he was shocked by how hot it was in the city, but also disturbed by the extreme cold being pumped out from his hotel room's AC unit. “The project was started with the vision of contributing to energy saving by reducing the dependency on air conditioning indoors as much as possible, in addition to giving a feeling of coldness outdoors,” he explains.
Ito's Reon Pocket became a reality after an incredibly successful crowdfunding campaign in July 2019, in which the target amount of 66 million yen ($485,000) was raised in a single week. Sony was then able to make the units available for retail the following year, where it has become a hit product in Japan. This may be due partially to the fact that the units aren't too expensive, at 14,850 yen ($109), as well as a potential upcoming heat wave in the country.
Originally created with office workers in mind, the unit is designed to be inconspicuous, and can be completely hidden if worn under a collared shirt. In fact, Sony has teamed up with several labels to produce a line of business shirts and golf shirts that have built-in pockets perfectly sized to hold a Reon and maximize its cooling air flow.
Ito has more improvements in mind for the next version of the product, as well as the larger goal of saving energy. By incorporating technology that utilizes biological data (such as that of smart watches) to finetune the Reon's function, Ito hopes to “contribute to the world of global warming from the perspective of energy saving by reducing the load on air conditioning by further evolving appropriate temperature control tailored to each individual.”