This smart face mask can talk to your phone and amplify your voice

It was really only a matter of time.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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The c-mask smart mask connects to a phone via Bluetooth.

Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Face masks are here to stay for the foreseeable future as the world continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic. Japanese startup Donut Robotics has developed a way to turn the ubiquitous coronavirus face mask into the latest tech gadget.

The c-mask isn't meant to be worn alone. You place the device over the top of your regular face mask. A Bluetooth connection to your phone lets you dictate messages or make calls. The system can also translate speech into different languages, a feature Donut originally developed for its Cinnamon robot. The translation feature will require a subscription.

"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," Donut Robotics chief executive Taisuke Ono told Reuters.

Another intriguing feature is the ability to send your voice out from your phone. It can be hard to hear people talking from under face masks, so this digital loudspeaker concept could come in handy in classrooms or meeting rooms where you have to stay at a distance from the people you're talking to. 

Donut will soon open up preorders for Japan at a price of around $40 (£32, AU$60). The company expects to ship the masks later this year. Customers in other parts of the world will have to wait, though Ono told Reuters he'd like to sell the device in other countries.

Face masks are necessary, but they can be inconvenient when it comes to using our smartphones like normal. Perhaps the c-mask would cut down on the number of people pulling down their face masks to talk into their phones.

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