Face masks have become a common, if sometimes controversial, sight over the course of COVID-19 pandemic. Single-use N95, KN95, and KF94 masks offer reasonably good protection, while reusable fabric masks may be less effective, but they can still help prevent the spread of the virus.
And then there are the high-tech masks, like Razer’s Project Hazel face mask with changeable filters, LED lights, and a mic and speaker system. You can’t buy Razer’s face mask yet, but you know what you will be able to buy starting this week? A Xupermask.
Produced as collaboration between musician Will.i.am and Honeywell, it’s a face mask that’s designed to be functional and fashionable… if pricy. It goes on sale April 8 for $299.
In terms of features, here’s what makes the Xupermask different than a plain old piece of cloth wrapped around your face:
- It has a Honeywell HEPA filtration system with replaceable filters.
- There are three dual-speed fans.
- It has built-in noise-cancelling headphones and Bluetooth audio support.
- There are LED lights.
- It has a rechargeable battery with 7 hours of run time.
Oh, and like any good face mask these days, it’s designed with a seal that should fit tightly over the bridge of your nose to prevent glasses from fogging up… although I’ve found that the effectiveness of this kind of thing can vary widely depending on the shape of your glasses (and probably your nose, but I’ve only got the one to test things on).
The bottom and sides of the Xupermask is made of “athletic mesh fabric,” according to the New York Times, and the HEPA filter is not “medical quality.” So it’s unclear if the Xupermask will actually be much more effective at preventing the spread of disease than a T-shirt wrapped around your face.
— XUPERMASK (@xupermask) March 27, 2021
You could certainly make the case that the $299 price is warranted by the inclusion of a decent set of noise-cancelling Bluetooth earbuds – those aren’t exactly cheap. But given Will.i.am’s track record with releasing weird gadgets that nobody seems to want to buy, I’m not sure I’d bet on the Xupermask being a success.
As Gizmodo notes, the product is rolling out at a time when the vaccine rollout is accelerating in the United States, and while you could certainly make a case that now that face mask wearing has become common around the world, it could stay that way even after the worst of the pandemic has passed as people try to avoid the next one. But the backlash against mask mandates in many regions seems to suggest that the face masks as fashion accessories may have limited appeal moving forward, whether high-tech or not.