As the pandemic presses on, P.P.E cover and masks have taken their natural place as an object of normality. We no longer question why one is wearing a mask when pondering the high street and we too have conformed to masks wears. In light of its popularity and ever-growing need, its development will, like most things, take it to the next level. The demands for masks can be demonstrated in this graph below, which shows the production volume of N95 masks in the US in 2020.
The advancements in technology have changed many ordinary objects into high tech gadgets which offer us much more. For example, we now have smart clothing that can keep us warm or cool, depending on our environment. By simply pressing a few buttons on a jacket, we can comfortably adjust temperatures for added comfort. With this in mind, and the widespread adoption of masks thanks to the pandemic, how will the future of masks change, and are they worth the tech?
C-Face Smart Mask
Donut Labs is developing a mask called C-Face Smart Mask. The mask was developed using state of the art robot technology and is thought to be the world’s first smart mask compatible with smartphones. The C-Face is a plastic case that attaches on top of a soft air-filtering mask and aims to help people understand muffled speech. The mask connects to the smartphone via Bluetooth and allows a two-way conversation to happen using the other person’s smartphone speaker, so what is being said through the mask can be understood.
This mask can work well in the medical field, allowing practitioners to communicate with patients without effectively removing their mask. The spoken words can also be displayed as text on the smartphone screen and translated into 8 different languages.
LG Electronics has developed a mask to resolve home masks’ dilemmas being inconsistent in quality and safety and disposable masks being in short supply. The LG mask comes with two H13 HEPA filters similar to those used in the company’s own air purifying products for homes. The filters allow PuriCare Wearable to supply fresh and clean air in both indoor and outdoor settings.
The mask is also fitted with LG’s Dual Fans and patented Respiratory Sensor, which can detect the cycle and volume of the wearer’s breath, adjusting the two fans accordingly. To help make breathing effortless for the wearer, the mask’s fans automatically speed up to help assist air intake and slow down to reduce resistance when exhaling. The mask is equipped with UV-LED lights, which kill harmful bacteria and germs and can send notifications to the LG ThinQ app when filters need to be replaced.
Light-up LED mask
A games developer in California has created a face mask which lights up with moving mouth shapes. The mask looks like a standard black mask except the LED light display. The LED lights respond to the sound of the user’s voice. Although this mask is more a ‘random idea’ by creator Tyler Glaiel, it may have a place in today’s world.
For those who have hearing difficulties and rely on lip reading, wearing masks has created a problem for them as they are no longer able to see people’s lips. A mask like this, developed with people with hearing difficulties in mind could help transform their lives. Some organizations are also looking at creating clear masks which have a transparent visor so lips can be seen.
Many have questioned whether face shields will in the future replace face masks. Although face masks offer protection, do they adequately offer the protection that we will need concerning viruses as deadly as corona mutations and pollution, which is an ever-growing issue and will only worsen. In the evolution of mask culture, a device known as ‘Air’ has been created as a new form of P.P.E. It is a shield worn on the shoulder surrounding the head with a clear visor. It features a built-in HEPA filter and has two adjustable fans to help circulate and clear the air—an option for commuters and a possibility for returning to normality.
The image below-taken from a CNBC and Change Research survey found that once things begin to return to normal, a staggering 55% of participants said they would like to return to work, indicating a need for developments in solutions to help make this possible.
However, there is much to question about whether these new facemasks are worth the tech and in some cases, the hefty price tags that will come with them. From a health perspective, they are real game-changers and help reduce bacteria breathed in. However, although the vaccine for coronavirus looks promising, herd immunity may not work. Many infected with the disease can stop producing antibodies, so will these new face masks really make much difference? Only time will tell in this instance.