Tech industry uncovers new ways to mask up against COVID-19 at CES 2021
From health sensors to colorful accent lights, tech companies showed off new ways to upgrade the everyday mask.
Ian SherrContributor and Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. As an editor at large at CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
There were masks designed with censors to track breathing. Other masks are transparent so you see the wearer's mouth. There are even ones to help you make a phone call.
"Now that we're well and truly settled into this new normal, we see the need for face masks that are safe, social and sustainable," Charlie Bolton, head of design at
, said in a video. His team created a concept mask it calls "the world's smartest mask," with features like lighting, a microphone and speaker.
Watch this: Tech at CES to address coronavirus spread
In many ways, the
move to create these masks couldn't have come at a better time. Coronavirus infections and deaths are surging around the world. Just over a year after the coronavirus was first detected in China, the virus has infected more than 92 million people around the world and killed more than 2 million.
But just adding technology to a mask or some other tool to fight disease isn't enough. That's why some of the most interesting tech products shown at CES don't ever make it to market. At a time when people need as many tools as possible to fight the pandemic, hopefully some of that tech will actually help.
Below is a list of the most interesting tech-enabled masks we've seen so far.
What more do you need to hear? The MaskFone, made by Binatone, is a $50 washable mask with a built-in Bluetooth headset. The goal is to help get rid of that muffled sound. The mask is rated N95, meaning it can filter 95% of particulates including bacteria and viruses.
The MaskFone lasts for 12 hours on a charge, which should be enough to get you through even the most grueling conference calls.
(Before you ask, it's not made by the same company that created the TV hat comedian Stephen Colbert found in 2011. Though his segment on it did make the hat one of the hits of CES.)
AirPop Active Plus
The company AirPop is positioning its AirPop Active Plus mask as both fashionable and protective. At $150 apiece, the AirPop is fitted with a sensor on the front that's about the size of a quarter that connects with an app via Bluetooth to track your breathing rate, pollutants, air-quality index and when to switch out the filter. AirPop believes the breath tracking can also help athletes, who can calculate their body's performance from some of that data.
AirPop says its mask is washable and will go on sale in February. You can also buy a version without the sensor for $56.
LG's PuriCare Mask
It's huge, but there's a reason. It's a battery-powered air purifier for your face, complete with fans, a HEPA filter and sensors too. All told, LG said it can block more than 99% of airborne viruses and bacteria.
It weighs 126 grams, which is a little more than a standard car key fob, and lasts up to eight hours on a charge. That's right, you have to recharge it, which takes about two hours over a USB-C connection.
The device also comes with a case that sanitizes the mask with UV lights in 30 minutes. So far, it's only sold in Asia and the Middle East, and LG hasn't said when the mask will hit US markets or how much it'll cost when it does.
Razer's Project Hazel
Leave it to a gaming lifestyle brand to go all out with its mask concept. This N95 mask has all the bells and whistles you can imagine, including active ventilation and replaceable filters. It has a microphone and speaker too, which processes your voice so it's more clear for people to hear through the mask.
A place where Razer stands out, though, is with the mouth-covering itself, which is transparent so you can read people's lips and see their facial expressions. Transparent facial masks and face shields have already become popular amid the pandemic, but Razer decided to add inside lighting so you can see people's mouths at night too.
The mask has silicon around the edges for comfort and fit, and adjustable ear loops.
And to give it that extra gamer-y flare, it has fluorescent accent lights on the outside that indicate charge status.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.