Before last year, face masks were rarely seen, in the UK and US at least, outside of operating theatres. Now everyone owns multiple masks, and we're on the verge of forgetting what the lower half of a human face even looks like.
Despite this, today's best face masks still aren't quite perfect, and there are a few flaws that have yet to be solved. Tech companies of various stripes have been experimenting with more advanced masks, but the one that seems to have got furthest is Razer – the brand behind some of the world's best gaming laptops.
The aim of the mask was to meet those all-important medical demands, but also offer something that's less socially restrictive, and more pleasant to wear, than a standard fabric mask.
The Project Hazel mask is classed as a surgical N95 respirator, making it effective protection against covid-19, as well as filtering our 95% of bacteria. A silicon guard sits against the wearer's face for a comfortable and snug fit, while also keeps the front of the mask away from the face, enabling natural mouth movement.
It also packs a number of very clever features. First up, a built-in mic and amplifier combo means the wearer can be clearly heard when speaking, while the transparent design means facial expressions remain visible, and makes lipreading possible. It even has interior lights that activate automatically when it’s dark. Active ventilation releases warm air and provides a constant stream of fresh air, to stop the mask from steaming up and keep the wearer's face cool.
Razer has taken steps to ensure the new mask is sustainable too: it's made from recycled plastics. Finally, it's waterproof and scratch-resistant, making it ideal for regular use. The company has been developing the project over the past year or so, and now has confirmed that it's ready to proceed in getting them to the public.
"We are going to proceed in making it a reality and ship the smart mask," Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan told Yahoo Finance. "We've realised that even with vaccinations we are hearing you still have to be masked up because there is still the risk factor... Secondly, there are also many countries that are unlikely that are going to get the whole [scale] of vaccinations in the next year or even two so travelling everyone should be very careful."
"Project Hazel is going to be a reality. We are going to make it happen and I think we will all will be, unfortunately, wearing masks for a long time to come," he added.