Masks have become an essential part of our lifestyle in the COVID-19 environment and are expected to stay with us for the foreseeable future as a requirement for our social and healthy life. Yet, Close to 30% of the world’s population which has access to any form of COVID-19 protection masks hesitate to use it for extended durations citing discomfort.
Often considered as a disturbance to our normal activities such as communication, eating and even breathing, these masks have become an undesired necessity. Numerous organizations across the globe, startups as well as established organizations have understood this fact and come up with innovative solutions to increase the functionality of ordinary masks by transforming them into smart masks with the cutting edge technologies.
While many innovative smart masks focus on improving the air quality and comfort when wearing the mask others have integrated Bluetooth technology to increase human capabilities to communicate and interact with gadgets. Directly or Indirectly all these solutions are improving the adoption of masks across the globe by minimizing difficulties and adding additional functions to make these masks less intrusive and an intelligent companion to the user.
Asia has shown the most potential around the world is utilizing innovation to create smart masks for regular use. There are numerous innovative masks ranging from $20 to $400 with multiple functionalities to choose across the board. Here are a few products which deserve special mention in this regard.
C-Mask by Donut Robotics, Japan
Japanese startup Donut Robotics reportedly came up with the innovative solution to transform the mask into a Bluetooth connected smart mask with a mouthpiece out of desperation to avoid closure after being hit hard by COVID-19 pandemic. The team of engineers came up with a prototype of C-Mask as they call it within a week of conceptualization after its orders to supply robot guides and translators to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport faced uncertainty.
C-Mask, which can be fitted over conventional face masks facilitates Bluetooth connectivity between a smartphone or a tablet application that empowers the user to make and speak over calls, transcribe speech into text messages and amplify the user’s voice. According to the official website, the product can “make a voice into letters”, “translate in eight languages”, and “create minutes”.
The team came up with C-Mask as it innovated by adapting the translation software developed for its robot and combining it with a mask design that one of the company’s engineers, Shunsuke Fujibayashi had created a few years ago for a student project to interpret speech by mapping face muscles.
“We worked hard for years to develop a robot and we have used that technology to create a product that responds to how the coronavirus has reshaped society.”
CEO – Donut Robotics.
Donut Robotics expects the first batch of 5,000 C-Masks to ship by September to its buyers in Japan. The firm is keen to explore exports to the United States and Europe as well where it has received strong interests for the product. With an approximate price tag of $40 per mask, the firm aims to generate revenue from subscriber services offered via an app that users will download. Development is already underway for the next version of the product with functionalities leveraging AR and VR technologies.
Air+ Smart Mask Unit from by ST Engineering, Singapore
Singapore-based Innosparks which is associated with ST Engineering’s Open Innovation Lab collaborated with Temasek Foundation to create AIR+ Smart Mask for kids and adults by combining a fit-tested N95-class disposable mask with a reusable snap-on micro fan that expels trapped heat, humidity and harmful carbon dioxide, helping users breathe better and comfortably.
Built over a development period of 18 months, the product has been in the market since 2015. AIR+ respiratory masks have been well-received by consumers locally and in overseas markets such as China and India. The product has also received several international design awards such as Red Dot and IF Awards, as well as local consumer awards. Both the AIR+ mask and the micro fan are sold separately. The product which sells for approximately $21.00 in Singapore is currently out of stock.
“Taking a fresh look at existing masks and their limitations, we focused our design on proper fit and enhanced comfort for prolonged use. To do so, we applied our engineering and technical skill sets to challenge the status quo and invented what we can confidently say is the next generation of respirators.”
Engineering Head – AIR+
AIR+ is also available for professionals working at construction sites.
ATMOBLUE by Blue Sky Labs, China
ATMOBLUE is a smart air purification system designed by Blue Sky Labs, China which considers it as its mission to provide clean air, water and food to all. Created in 2016, ATMOBLUE reduces the negative impacts caused to humans by toxic air.
ATMOBLUE is currently available to purchase on Indiegogo for a price tag of $149 along with several supporters perks for orders ranging from 2 to 10 numbers.
Leaf (First transparent Mask) Mask from Leaf Healthcare, USA
Airwheel from Airwheel Holding Limited, USA
Innovation to triumph over the crisis
Innovations like C-Mask, AIR+ Solutions and ATMOBLUE exhibits humankind’s unending quest to explore new possibilities and innovate to overcome any crisis thrown at us. It validates our ability to adapt to tough circumstances and use the tools at our disposal to create pathbreaking solutions with our dexterity, innovation and will power.