The Future of Masks in Wearable Tech
Masks and face coverings to cut down on infection have seen a massive increase in North America during the COVID-19 pandemic but this is not the first time that masks: have been used to help keep a population healthy. In Asia and other countries besides North America, medical face masks have been used regularly to keep the general population safe, not to mention those working in sanitized factories and environments where people are required to wear a mask. So it seems slightly perplexing that out of nowhere, after years of surgeons wearing masks in the ICU, that information was suddenly disseminated about masks being dangerous. Although some medical issues would keep some people from wearing a mask, misinformation about "Carbon Dioxide Toxicity" is pushing people away from wearing this simple life-saving device. One would think in Canada, where most of the population has to wear scarves over their faces for half of the year, would embrace wearing a face mask. Public opinion aligns closely with public perception, and when the leaders of western countries are not, well, leading by wearing a mask and modeling the appropriate behaviour, it is no surprise that there would be such a disconnect when it comes to protecting oneself from COVID-19.
So what would get those of us in the Western World happy with wearing a mask? Wearable Tech is one way to embrace the face and have it be more socially acceptable to wear a protective face covering. The open-source iSphere may be one solution as it plays into the 1950s science fiction aesthetic. It was created in April when Berlin made mouth and nose coverings mandatory on public transit, the same bylaw that was just passed in Toronto in July. The iSphere is part play, part serious, this wearable has mods available to include possible sunshade, a mirrored layer, an integrated microphone, a speaker, a ventilator, or a snorkel. From open source to 3D printing the ATMOBLUE is another possible mask that touts that it "...makes it feel like you don’t have a mask on" and calls itself a "wearable smart air purifier". Designed with athletes in mind and its internal fan to create 'positive airflow', the device management APP provides real air-time quality indicators that come standard with built-in software & APP control and most importantly, offer dynamic airflow controls.
These are just a few of the wearable solutions that are coming to light to manage air pollution, chemicals and disease. Although this particular pandemic may be short-lived, masks could be a more permanent accessory, and the possibilities for wearable solutions may be better embraced if they come with technical benefits as well as medical.