We all know how difficult it is to use your phone while wearing gloves. Now imagine soldiers trying to reload ammunition with them on in freezing temperatures.

The US Army's research team understands this problem and has been working on a solution over the last few years: an arm heater that allows people to go glove-free in extremely cold weather conditions.

How does it work?

US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM) have developed a promising new technology that will keep your hands warm in cold environments without the use of gloves.

The device in question is called a personal heating dexterity device and is essentially a simple heating band worn around a person's forearm, powered by a tiny battery. A team of scientists, led by John Castellani, have engineered the product, which generates heat into the upper forearm and increase blood circulation to your fingertips in cold weather.

personal heating dexterity device,
Dr. John Castellani, the principal investigator, instructs a study volunteer on how to take the Purdue Pegboard Test, a test that measures hand dexterity. USARIEM

When temperatures drop, blood vessels contract to preserve one's normal internal body or "core" temperature. Castellani says they targeted forearm heating because it's "essentially just heating the tissue proximal to the hand."

Useful in Combat

Castellani's work at USARIEM has focused on soldier performance and preventing injuries on the field in cold weather and among the complaints he receives from soldiers, a majority of them have to do with the stiffness of their hands in low temperatures.

"Anyone who has ever tried to do anything with their hands and fingers in the cold knows that it is hard to do when wearing gloves, because that degrades dexterity 50 to 80 percent," Castellani told the publication. "And taking off the gloves helps, but then the hands get really cold and cannot work well anymore because of the lack of blood flow to the fingers."

U.S. Military
US Military

As of now, soldiers use the same product to keep their hands warm as we do, gloves or mittens. But that isn't enough for those in the military who load ammo into weapons, handle equipment and treat others who are hurt or injured in combat as the gloves restrict hand and finger movements to the point that render them as functionally ineffective as an unprotected hand impaired by the cold.

Scientists have been trying to develop cold-weather technology for various parts of the boy for more than 80 years. However, the technology wasn't feasible for actual use on the field as soldiers would have to carry heavy power sources along with all of their equipment. So the folks at USARIEM wanted to create something small and unobtrusive this time around.

Will it be available for sale to civilians?

While it will still take a few years before the military actually starts using the personal heating dexterity devices on the field, but once it does, Castellani says a commercial version for civilians will follow.

"There are many people who would like a product like this—line workers in the winter, construction workers, mechanics, winter athletes, [and] people who get really cold hands," he noted.