Face Masks Are Going Tech
Face masks will be an immutable part of our foreseeable future, so it’s no surprise that manufacturers are rolling out new and innovative designs to make them more comfortable and more effective.They have even shown up at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, which featured four high-tech masks.
You’ve probably seen people pulling down their masks to talk on the phone or were forced to listen to muffled calls from mask wearers. The UK telecom company Binafone has combined a bluetooth headset (and built-in microphone) with a facemask to solve this problem. The MaskFone has removable BlueTooth earbuds that offer 8 hours of battery life. The mask is waterproof to protect against the elements, and replaceable filters are available in N95/FFP2 grade to protect against tiny particles like coronavirus or in a lower PM2.5 grade for larger particles like dust. MaskFone is immediately available. Its website lists its price at $49.99.
Dino Lalvani, owner of Binafone and inventor of the Maskfone, said in a press release: “Especially given the current situation, the MaskFone fixes the most common issue of removing your mask to speak on the phone in order to be heard clearly and from exposing yourself and those around you while doing that. Using MaskFone, both you and your surroundings will always stay safe and healthy.”
AirPop Active+ Halo
The AirPop Active Plus is the latest entry from Airpop, which joined the US market last fall. It’s the successor to last year’s AirPop Active, which combined light construction with a tight seal and replaceable, full-size filters expected to last for 40 hours of use. The company touts its membrane seal, the unique “aerodrome” design, flex-frame chassis and air knit material for its fit and filtration capability.
The new Active+ is a “smart” device, with a connected app and the titular Halo sensors that monitor breathing patterns, filter efficiency and external air quality. For iPhone users, the Active+ offers HealthKit integration so you can track your statistics natively in iOS. It costs $149.99.
The Active+ Halo is available for pre-order now.
Marketed as a “wearable air purifier”, the PuriCare has a different design from most masks. It has a hard plastic shell with a washable face pad, reminiscent of a hospital respirator, inside to form the seal. The filters come as replaceable cartridges that plug into slots on the side. These H13 HEPA filters (a similar grade compared to an N95) are combined with dual fans for ventilation and to help with breathing. The mask also includes a patented respiratory sensor that adjusts the fan speed to match the wearer’s breathing. An optional UV case can sanitize the mask between uses. If you opt for the fan, know that the mask needs to be recharged after 4-8 hours of use.
This year’s electronic show awarded the PuriCare Honoree status in the wearable tech category. It is available in some Asian markets; the price is about $152.
Gaming peripheral maker Razer is stepping outside its comfort zone with Project Hazel, an “everything plus the kitchen sink” facemask, still in the concept phase, that bundles most of the features from the other masks above. Replaceable N95 filter cartridges? Check. Silicone lining to improve fit? Check. Active ventilation to help you breathe easier? Yep. Built-in microphone and amplifier? It has them, too. There’s even a storage container that sterilizes the mask using UV light … and speaking of lights, there are RGB lights on the outside so you can express your personal style. The mask’s hard shell is transparent, so no more guessing if someone is grinning or grimacing.
As for whether Project Hazel will ever reach production stage, Razer says on its website that Project Hazel is a prototype and asks interested consumers to join its notifications list.
The take home
The Covid-19 pandemic is lasting longer than most predicted, and masks are no doubt here to stay, at least for a while to come. Companies like these are continuing to innovate and create better, more comfortable, and more effective designs to make life a little bit easier.