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AirWaves: The Mask of the Future

High-tech, futuristic AirWaves may change the way we think about pollution masks

09·12·2013

AirWaves: The Mask of the Future

High-tech, futuristic AirWaves may change the way we think about pollution masks

09·12·2013

Masks are all the rage in China, from pollution masks designed to filter out harmful particles and the “invisible air masks” to the truly terrifying facekini. Now a futuristic type of pollution mask, comparable to that worn by Bane in the movie The Dark Knight Rises, is coming soon to Chinese markets.

In an internal competition focused on wearable technology, designers in Frog Design’s Shanghai office took the traditional idea of a pollution mask and made it high-tech. The AirWaves mask, one of eight winning wearable technology concepts, filters the air while monitoring China’s horrific air quality in real time and sharing that data with other wearers.

The particle sensor in the mask measures the air quality and that data is shared via Bluetooth. A smartphone app then creates a collective map not only showing which areas of a city to avoid but also, as ecouterre.com writes:

“The data can also be used to track and improve air quality over time on a local and macro level. Wearers can even monitor the air quality in their home by using the mask. The Shanghai office thinks that this system will also help improve trust of the Chinese in the data of the air quality through the collection of data from actual individuals rather than some “faceless” data source.”

AirWaves is more than a mask; it is seen as a revolutionary product that will transform the current state of apps and services.

“I don’t really believe in this tightly integrated, very efficient environment that is going to be managed out of single control room,” says Executive Creative Director Rainer Wessler.

“I think it is an organic network of data collection points — that everybody can tap into — that really keeps the city alive and liveable. This mask is a very small concept, admittedly, but one that perfectly embodies this insight for us.”

As of now, AirWaves is still a prototype. Frog’s designers have already established the basic concept of the mask but there are several challenges.

Their biggest challenge is fitting all the critical parts such as a Bluetooth modem, a power management unit, a battery, and a particle filter into a single mask while keeping it comfortable, and then making these parts sync with each other. Also, the mask has to look as good as it is useful. But given the increasingly worrying air quality in China, it won’t be long until AirWaves is making big waves in the markets.

Here is a video introducing AirWaves from The Wall Street Journal:

 

Image courtesy of BBC Future.