“Lapka” the Personal Environment Monitor
A precise and beautiful set of devices designed to measure and play with the hidden qualities of your environment.
“IT’S REALLY AN ACCESSORY… IT’S ANOTHER PAIR OF SHOES, OR ANOTHER BAG, OR ANOTHER PAIR OF NICE GLASSES.”
Although Lapka was designed in Moscow, Marmeladov and co. decided that the US would be a great place to launch — a country fixated on fashion trends, and saturated with luxury items people still gobble up during times of recession. The team recently relocated to San Francisco to work full time on Lapka and upcoming projects. Yet, will anyone bite on “high design” versions of tools we already have? “Lapka is a set of existing tools which have been re-imagined and crafted from scratch,” Marmeladov says. “It’s really an accessory… It’s another pair of shoes, or another bag, or another pair of nice glasses.” Lapka is a very nice thing but not necessarily a vital thing. It’s greatest virtue is that it doesn’t look or work like anything else, and comes from a rich body of inspiration across fashion, graphic, and product design.
“A combination of these things is what eventually will make Lapka a different tech company,” Marmeladov says. Like BERG, the company behind Little Printer, Lapka is evidence that small teams of people are now quite capable of building hardware startups. And when the iPhone’s handling most of the hard work, the greatest challenge is figuring out what you want to plug into it.
Even if Lapka’s short term prospects at money-making are unclear, a future measured by distributed sensors could be exciting. Waze has crowd-sourced mapping roads and traffic conditions, and Lapka — wired into the cloud — could chart various conditions across the world. “We could build a map of the world using these measurements and using future sensors [sold a la carte] such as an air quality sensor,” Marmeladov says. In just a few minutes anyone can tweet Instagram photos, and now readings from Lapka’s radiation sensor. “But mostly, this is fun,” Marmeladov insists. “It’s a first step in the right direction.”
Lapka’s organic food detector isn’t as magical as it sounds. It’s a stainless steel “probe” that, when pierced through raw fruits and vegetables tests electrical conductivity — “which correlatesto the relative concentration of nitrate ions left behind from nitrogen-based fertilizers” — which can suggest that your carrot isn’t organic by today’s standards. There are various fruit and vegetable presets inside Lapka that denote different threshold for nitrate content — and tell you when you might want to be worried.
HUMIDITY / TEMP
“A good quality humidity detector’s going to cost you $200,” Marmeladov says, while Lapka’s is part of a $220 bundle and includes a built-in thermometer as well. And that’s part of the deal — since he thinks measuring humidity alone is pretty boring. This sensor’s meant to help you quantify exactly what conditions you sleep or work best in so you can reproduce them. “When we debuted Lapka, we got a lot of emails from moms, since there are specific guidelines for newborns about EMF and humidity,” Marmeladov says.
Lapka’s radiation sensor is a standard Geiger counter, but a lot smaller. While it’s much slower than a military-grade Geiger counter, Marmeladov claims that your final readings (after a few minutes) would be similar. However, he admits that the radiation sensor isn’t too useful on a day-to-day basis. “The radiation sensor isn’t really fun, since radiation readings areregular everywhere,” he says, “but in places like Fukushima, Japan, it might be more useful.” One place the average personcan get interesting (and perhaps scary) radiation results is while flying on an airplane.
Lapka’s EMF (electromagnetic fields) sensor measures low and high frequency waves around you. Low frequency waves, measured in microtesla, are emitted by objects like charging bricks, power lines, washing machines, and refrigerators. High frequency waves, measured in volts/meter, come from cellphones, cell antennas, and microwaves. The EMF sensor is designed to help you find the spots in your home with the lowest electromagnetic pollution, and thus the places most suitable to sleep or to put a baby’s crib, according to Marmeladov.