Personal humidifiers steam things up

January 25th, 2011 by Sandra Barron

Moist and light

Say what you want about man-made global warming. How come nobody’s railing against man-made global drying? At least in Tokyo, where a lot of indoor heating is some variation of forced air, hot blasts of air parch throats, gum up eyes and chap skin.

To combat the low indoor humidity, there are humidifiers in all shapes and sizes, from behemoths that sit on the floor to the ubiquitous bright plastic rings and teardrops and globes that puff away on lobby end tables and office desks. Now, moisture is getting more personal. This winter is seeing lots of new USB humidifiers, little tanks of water that plug into your computer (what could go wrong?) to sultrify your own workstation. Sauna Boy is pretty adorable, in a stressed-out cartoon kind of way.

The USB Humidifier from Green House is eco-chic, while Owltech makes USB plug-in humidifiers that look like cans of green tea or “Premium Moist” beer. To complete the college dorm effect, there’s one that looks like a styrofoam cup of instant noodles. That’s fine for people who sit still. But this is the age of people on the go! Who has time to sit around near a machine that pumps out warm steam or clouds of cool-to-the touch ultrasonic vapor? If the disheveled  shelves at Bic Camera are any indication, not the people of Tokyo. Electronic personal humidifiers and misters offer a pocket-ready solution to a problem you may not have known you have: how to keep hydrated on the go?

Despite the rather unsexy name, Panasonic’s Pocket Inhaler (ポケット吸入器 ) is positioned firmly in the beauty market. Its 12-ml tank will electronically pump out a fine, 40-micrometer mist for up to 3 minutes to comfort a dry throat.

Battery-operated misters like Moisture Mist (not to be confused with enormous industrial cooling humidifiers with the same name) aerosolize any watery beauty fluid to rehydrate skin. The imiy (pronounced “I me”) slides open like a cell phone to deliver a proprietary nanomist-ified  hydrating “essence.” The Ya-Man Photomister raises the stakes by adding a ring of little lights to its nanomist. This increases the moisturizing properties of the mist, they say. These devices range from about ¥5,000 to ¥20,000.

Similar in concept, Sharp has scaled down its line of Plasmacluster ion generators and introduced two new personal-sized devices this season. They don’t humidify exactly; they spray ions around you to, they claim, disinfect the air.  The car Plasmacluster unit is  shaped like a big coffee cup to fit into vehicle cup holders. The desktop unit plugs into a computer’s USB port and looks like a sleek, slightly overgrown cellphone. A display model spotted at Bic was even covered in applique crystals — would you expect anything less in the heart of Shibuya?

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