As long as you don’t count Dyson’s bladeless version, fans haven’t really gotten a major design update since they were first invented. Technologically speaking, most are still comprised of the same parts they were two or three decades ago: a small electric motor, a set of blades, and even maybe some special gears that make it oscillate back and forth if you spring for a deluxe model. But Japanese manufacturer Iris Ohyama is changing all that, and raising the bar for fans everywhere with the addition of a ingenious new function: the ability to sense when people are in the room.
Using a front-mounted infrared sensor that detects human bodies via their heat signatures, the fan is able to determine the approximate number and location of people in a given area. Armed with this information, it’s able to automatically adjust the angle and direction of its head so that it distributes air to spots that need it — not the empty space in the room.
It’s definitely not the most attractive fan we’ve ever laid eyes on, and the design could certainly use some styling to make it look less like a regular fan that somebody glued a Kinect onto; but aesthetics aside, the core concept is brilliant.
Iris Ohyama is selling the fans for about ¥18,000 (roughly $176 USD) through its website, but at this it’s difficult to tell if/when they’ll be available to U.S. consumers. In any case, even if they never make it to the States, we hope other manufacturers pick up on the idea and make their own versions. This is totally something that should come standard on high-end air-moving machines.