This new gadget shows exactly where you forgot to put sunblock

 Skin cancer is serious business and yet we take an incredibly haphazard approach to sun protection. Even when we think we're covered, we're not, but who can tell? Most of the sunblock we use is invisible anyway.

Sunscreenr, the sunblock detection gadget from Voxelight, aims to make the invisible visible and to save us from missing spots and potentially life-threatening skin damage, or at least a nasty sunburn.

It takes about 15 minutes for the sun's ultra-violet rays to do their business on your unprotected skin. Sunblock is designed to either block or absorb those rays, keeping them from damaging your skin either way. (The Environmental Protection Agency reports that 1 million people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer each year.)

 Suncreenr can't prevent that sun damage on its own. Instead, it's the digital companion to your sunblock-applying regimen.

The tiny, hand-held device looks like an over-sized key chain (and ostensibly could be attached to your keys). Once you've applied sunscreen to yourself or someone else, you can look through the device's view finder to see how completely you applied the sunscreen.

Inside Sunscreener is a 1.3 mp UV camera that looks for reflected UV rays. If the sunblock is doing its job, it absorbs the rays. As a result, any place where you did apply the sunblock will look, through the viewfinder, black — because it's not reflecting UV light — and the uncovered spots will look pale. If you are alone, you can record up to 30 seconds of video in the device and then watch back inside Sunscreenr to see if you missed covering any spots. Voxelight representatives tell me that this method will work on darker skin complexions as well, though the contrast will be somewhat diminished.

At least this is how it will work when the product is done.

 When Voxelight CEO David S. Cohen visited my office this week, he placed a half-dozen smart-looking Sunscreenr's on my desk (each one was a different color). However, the working prototype was a small black camera on a tripod. Sunscreenr, which launched on Kickstarter early this year, is still in development and productization phase and is currently on Indiegogo. The company hopes to launch later this year.

"We considered building it as a smartphone attachment," Cohen said, but they realized that the phone screen isn't the best for bright sunlight situations like the beach and that it could be damaged by sand and water. They decided instead to build something rugged, easy to view (you put your eye right up to the viewfinder) and sand-proof.

Cohen let me try out the prototype. Since there's virtually no UV light in my office, save whatever leaks from the fluorescent lights above (they're UV lights encased in glass tubes coated with a phosphor that reacts to the UV light), Cohen brought in a UV light source. He cautioned me not to stare directly at it.

I rubbed some sunblock on my face and, sure enough, I could see in black and white what was covered and what was not.

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