By Alison K Lanier
A small Russian startup company has propelled the bandwagon of minimalist, luxury tech forward with their new set of sensors for iPhone.
Dubbed Lapka, according to The Verge, the accessory measures the radiation, electromagnetic field or EMF, humidity and temperature of the user’s environment. It also has the unique capability to test how organic a sample of food is.
This new tool allows users to keep an eye on the invisible environments the modern user will pass through every day. It may at first appear to be an excessive, slightly off-kilter step in the luxury accessories market, however, Lapka represents a fascinating view on the world of technology through the lens of technology.
How the Lapka Works
In a series of white rectangular gadgets, Lapka’s sensors come in a sleek package of clean white and wood blocks. Lapka connects to the iPhone via a headphone jack and relays information for storage and later retrieval to the Lapka app. In an interview with co-founder and creative director of Lapka, Vadik Marmeladov, The Verge breaks down the device’s different sensors.
Some of the more simplistic sensors, like that for temperature and humidity, seem fairly straightforward. The sensors for radiation, however, come as a surprise with a military-grade Geiger counter which registers anything above a safe level of background radiation. The EMF sensor accounts for high- and low-frequency electromagnetic fields, created by everyday appliances like cellphones and microwaves.
The device’s most unique feature, the sensor which is lauded to measure a sample of food’s level of organic goodness, can actually determine exposure to artificial fertilizers. This test relies on a relatively simple and extremely clever method. After inserting the organic Lapka into the sample, the sensor measures the electrical conductivity of the food, determining the concentration of nitrate ions left over from non-organic agricultural origins.
How Useful Is the Lapka?
Lapka may at first appear excessive and, dare I say, obsessive. But the view it provides for the user is fascinating, minuscule, and completely in keeping with the forever expanding interaction of technology and perception.
Even Marmeladov admits in his interview with The Verge, “It’s hard to find someone who’d say ‘I’d love to measure radiation’ on a day-to-day basis,” but also describes that “It’s like a talisman, which you hold to be safe.”
Lapka, tellingly named after the Russian word for paw in the sense of a lucky rabbit’s foot, is using technology to connect to the world around you, to keep track of the moment to moment fields that we move through every day.
There are of course direct, practical uses for Lapka. The lowest area of EMF is the best area to sleep or, for instance, to place a baby’s crib. Radiation is important to be aware of when it rises above safe levels. Of course, there’s always the benefit that the product itself looks more like another streamlined iPhone product than a set of chemistry-lab catheters carried around in the pocket.
The fact remains that Lapka really is a tool for a user who finds it monetarily worthwhile and interesting to know these fascinating but ultimately relatively impractical tidbits of information—unless, of course, the user encounters high levels of radiation.
It belongs to a niche consumer market—probably the same market of consumers that go through the trouble and the cost of buying only-organic foods—who will feel not only vaguely interested but invested in knowing how organic their food is, where the best places to sleep are, and the indoor temperature and humidity of their home on an app that keeps a log of all these conditions.
How Lapka Measures Up as a Luxury Device
Lapka’s price tag comes in at $220, but taken in view of what the device includes, the cost is not actually the exorbitant investment it at first appears. Taken individually, the sensors cost more in a typical commercial market such as Amazon, where a high-quality Geiger counter can cost as much as $470. Not to mention that the devices are consolidated and organized by their union in the iPhone app. The collected environmental data can be archived, retrieved, re-examined, compared, and shared via the app and its link to Facebook.
The concept itself of seeing the world through a technological lens is far short of revolutionary. There are devices to keep track of your activity level and feed you statistics on your fitness—read Fitbit—and ever more popular exploration apps like Google Maps and Google Earth that depict the world in an accessible, digital scope.
Technology has been giving an insightful and a superfluous outlook on the world for years, and consumers have consistently paid to gain access to that kind of insight, based on the financial success of products like Fitbit and Google apps, Lapka though is, simply put, a cool, little gadget that is not overpriced.
With its stylish exterior and smooth array of social networking links and information trackers, Lapka may be excessive but it is also perfectly suited to the consumer’s desire to see their world through what Marmeladov calls the “enlightening” point of view from technology that is a blend of “Yves Saint Laurent and NASA.”
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