Tuan C. Nguyen
Regarding the hairdryer, renowned inventor Sir James Dyson had this to say: "Hairdryers can be heavy, inefficient and make a racket. By looking at them further we realized that they can also cause extreme heat damage to hair." With this in mind, he would go on to challenge his team of engineers, designers and creative minds to come up with a solution.
The Dyson Supersonic hairdryer, unveiled at press event in Tokyo, was a culmination of four years, $71 million, 600 prototypes, over 100 patents pending and rigorous testing on so much hair that if laid out as a single strand would stretch 1,010 miles. The result, though, was vintage Dyson: a compact, sleek design that quietly packs several finely-tuned high tech advancements meant to address some of the major flaws with most hair dryers currently on the market.
Comfortable and easy on the eyes
Like many of his inventions, Dyson's first foray into the beauty industry combines his signature cutting-edge sensibilities with a pleasingly minimalist aesthetic. Instead of vents and other clunky segmented parts it's comprised of a smooth handle that simply extends toward a circular ring that sits on top. When directly facing the blower end, the dryer resembles another signature Dyson product called the Bladeless Fan.
That's not by coincidence, of course. Dyson's modernist take on hair drying is powered by a smaller version of the hidden motor used inside the company's line of uber quiet cooling machines. The V9, the company's smallest and lightest motor to date, can run at a speed of over 110,000 rotations per minute, fast enough to produce ultrasonic sound waves that register as inaudible to the human ear.
Miniaturizing the technology to the point where it's roughly the diameter of a quarter also allows the designers to fit it inside the handle to ensure proper weight balance. That way that the user doesn't feel the strain of having to hold and maneuver a top heavy object.
Blow dryers shouldn't worsen bad hair days
Besides enhanced comfort and ease of use, the Supersonic Dryer was designed from the ground up to eliminate some of the most vexing issues people have with hair drying. For instance, blown air from hair dryers tends to be uneven and the turbulence can cause strands of hair to tangle, which is more often the case with those who have less than straight hair.
Dyson's Air Multiplier technology, found in both the Supersonic dryer and Bladeless fan, creates a high-velocity air stream by sucking air upward toward the rim where it's joined with air brought in through the back and then channeled outward in a horizontal direction. The result is a smooth, even flow of air.
Another common problem is that overly hot air can ruin the surface texture and resiliency of natural hair to the point where shampoo and condition treatments can't undo. To prevent heat damage, Dyson engineers added heat sensors that gauge and help regulate the airflow temperature by continuously relaying readings at a rate of 20 times a second to the main microprocessor. The data is used to adjust the motor speed automatically so that temperatures are kept within a safe range.
Heads and shoulders above the rest, but for a price
Rounding out the list of notable enhancements, the dryer also includes a removable filter at the bottom of the handle to catch lost strands of hair (think lint trap) and three attachments that connect magnetically to the blower head. There's the smoothing nozzle, which spreads a wide air stream across the surface to avoid messy, displaced the strands as you gently dry your hair.
The concentrator nozzle creates more of a focused stream of air that's ideal for shaping different parts while the diffuser nozzle is for reducing the frizz of curly hair by distributing air softly without disturbing the curls. The bottom line, though, is whether any of us really needs a fancy, futuristic hair dryer and if ultimately such benefits are little more than a luxury. I'd say that for now Dyson's hair dryer seems to be something that might appeal to higher-end salons with high-end clientele who will have their own reasons to justify the exorbitant $400 asking price.
Tuan C. Nguyen is a Silicon Valley-based journalist
specializing in technology, health, design and innovation.
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