Attention urban commuters, or maybe more specifically their loved ones... here's something you want to seriously consider picking up.
These are the amusingly named Zackees, so called by their co-founders Zach Vorhies and Murat Ozkan, Silicon Valley techies. Vorhies got the idea about electronic clothing from a friend who went to Burning Man (they had me at Burning Man), and Ozkan invented the CPU that runs them. The end result?
A glove that's a turn signal.
Using them is pretty simple. You press your thumb into your hand so that two steel rivets come together and complete the circuit that causes a turn signal on the back of your hand to light up. The signal itself is a flashing arrowhead powered by a CPU that's battery-run and sealed inside a silicon pocket stitched into the fabric of the glove. It's pretty foolproof, although in testing them I found myself forgetting to use them every time I turned. So at most there's a slight learning curve to maximizing their utility.
The gloves themselves are solid, very comfortable, seemingly well-made touring gloves, as opposed to the lightweight but practically disposable racing gloves I tend to buy. That durability is important for a couple reasons. One, the Zackees cost $75, which is on the high end for gloves, so ideally they'll become a good value by lasting long. And two, the Zackees are powered by rechargeable coincell batteries, which the makers say can be recharged over 100 times. I've had the gloves for a month (worn them four times) and have yet to recharge them, so if I'm less than 1% into the lifecycle of the electronics, then the fabric had better be built to last. They've got a lot of blinking ahead of them.
Another important aspect of the Zackees is their ability to deal with water, an issue for electronics in general. There the news is also positive. You can wash them as long as you take out the batteries, and you can wear them in the rain because they are sealed well enough for this purpose. If water does get into the CPU, just remove the batteries and air dry it to get them back to good working order. I wore them in a light rain so far and had no issues. [Although I did put them to the dreaded Leaky Salad Test, where they acquired a coat of balsamic vinegar while stashed in my commuter bag. The activation rivets got a bit tarnished, but the circuit has soldiered on undeterred.]
Downsides? On occasion I noticed the rivets in certain hand positions on the bar, and a couple times I accidentally activated the light, though it was fluky enough not to worry about this becoming an issue. For people who would use them a lot, you'll need a system for recharging, but chances are you already have one or more lighting devices in heavy charging rotation from about October to April. I have half a dozen USB chargers in my drawer at work. This is just one more.
Most of the riding I do is in adequate daylight or off-road, so these won't be my every day, year-round gloves, but I plan to use them constantly this winter, when commuting in Seattle means gloom in the daytime and going home after dark, in city traffic, where the lights will be bright enough to get me noticed and help me deal with navigating traffic on my side of the road. Winter is a good time to load up on illumination devices. It's also a good time to give things like this to the bike commuter in your life. Excellent stocking stuffer potential.
I'm looking forward to seeing the looks on drivers' faces when I put them to some nighttime use, I'm sure they'll come as a surprise and probably draw some comments. If I've never seen illuminating signal gloves, I doubt your north Seattle drivers have either. The utility of the Zackees goes down a bit in the 'burbs or rural areas, but if you're an urban rider, in any size city, the Zackees are a way to up your safety that, til now, has never existed. And as we know, every bit helps.