As consumers around the world become increasingly concerned about the impact of toxic air on their health, designers are exploring how to improve the efficacy and aesthetics of pollution masks.
Based in the Urban-X start-up accelerator in Brooklyn, New York, O2O2 is developing the next generation of pollution protection. It has designed a prototype connected mask with a transparent perspex body that enables wearers to communicate a wider variety of facial expressions than standard masks allow, something CEO Daniel Bowden believes is hindering their popularisation.
The perspex mouthguard is flanked by two fans that filter pollutants and circulate air around the face to prevent condensation from forming – a common problem with most non-disposable masks.
‘We looked at the existing options on the market and were horrified,’ says Bowden. ‘Facemasks and respirators are effectively repurposed 1960s technology that is fundamentally flawed.’
The Woobi Play mask, designed by Kilo for Airmotion Laboratories, is aimed at children aged six and over. While most masks on the market typically hide the face, the Woobi Play’s translucent, medical-grade silicone structure enables wearers to read and interact seamlessly.
The mask’s coloured parts are modular, enabling parents and children to assemble the mask together in a collaborative educational experience that teaches kids about product design and the risks of pollution.
‘This project is a bold shot at designing a simple, new typology that transforms a professional, protective mask to fit into a child’s universe,’ says Lars Larsen, founder and head of design at Kilo.
Japanese design studio Nendo has designed the branding for manufacturer Clever’s re-usable pollution mask. Bo-Bi can be washed and re-used up to 100 times, and is packaged inside a soft portable carry case that doubles as a laundry net for ease of cleaning – a significant differentiating factor, as other disposable masks on the market are often difficult to clean.
The product is available in three models. The Standard model has 10 layers of mesh filtering, while the Pro has 12 and claims to protect against radioactive materials. The Slim model is designed to modify a user’s breathing, and claims to help them burn between 200 and 400 calories a day.
New Zealand-based start-up O2Today partnered with renowned designer Marcel Wanders to create what its claims is the first all-natural pollution mask. The product is made using sustainably sourced materials and low environmental impact manufacturing processes.
‘We created a mask out of a material that doesn’t add to the problem it is trying to solve – the pollution problem,’ says Wanders.
The mask is designed for daily use and filters 97% of harmful pollutants while still enabling users to breathe easily. Each mask can be re-used from 15 to 45 times, depending on pollution levels.
Smart Cambridge Mask
London-based brand Cambridge Mask Co has launched what it claims is the first pollution filter that actively monitors air quality around the user. An accompanying app works with the filter to monitor the ambient air quality using a mix of open source and government pollution data, and calculates a user’s lung capacity based on their height, weight, age and gender. It cross-references this information with the user’s breathing patterns to predict when the filter will need to be replaced. The app also alerts users when they enter an area with poor air quality.
The filter can be retrofitted to any of the brand’s pre-existing face masks, providing ‘the best military-grade filtration technology in a fashion-friendly mask’, according to the brand.