People around the world are jumping on the trend of wearing face masks out in public for a multitude of reasons. Face masks are worn as a result of high air pollution in cities, to stop the spreading of viruses, to retain anonymity, as a fashion statement or for a combination of these reasons.
As the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has now been named a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation, the demand for wearable respiratory protection is increasing rapidly. Some suppliers of face masks are even selling-out.
This article highlights several designs for wearable air purifiers which appeal to the various motivations for wearing face masks.
Origins of the surgical mask trend in the East:
Some sources claim that wearing surgical masks in public areas began because of the 2002 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic which originated in China. Since then, it has evolved into a commonly worn filter against airborne viruses and smog from coal-fired heating, heavily polluting steel production plants and vehicle emissions in densely populated cities which heavily affected air quality in parts of China, Taiwan and Japan.
Although, some wearers of protective face masks claim their motivation is purely aesthetic. A variety of designs and colours allow wearers to match masks like an accessory to an outfit.
Also, in some other cases, face masks are worn to provide a “social firewall” to silently signal to others a lack of desire to communicate. As well as providing anonymity to the wearer as much of their face is covered up. For example, some protesters in Hong Kong are purposefully ignoring the banning of face masks during protests in defiance against police and government.
Examples of some variations on wearable air purifiers:
- TWI658234B – Creating Nano Technologies Inc
This air purification device resembles the disposable surgical masks most popularly worn. The invention is described as a wearable air purification device that has an air intake vent on their side, and an outlet located in front of the nose of the wearer. This type of mask, covering the mouth and nose, could be a good method of preventing the inhalation of airborne viruses and the half-face coverage provides some anonymity for the wearer.
- CN204170307U – Wang Hu (Inventor and Assignee)
This air purifier is designed to be worn directly on top of the user’s head and features a tube providing purified air directly to the nose of the wearer. The non-obstructive design allows the wearer to leave their mouth and most of their face uncovered. Based on the drawing attached in this patent document, it appears this invention targets cyclists to combat poor air quality caused by vehicle emissions.
- WO200221231A1 – Dyson Technology Ltd.
The Dyson designed wearable air purifier with in-built headphones was published recently, in January 2020. The earpieces house the air filters and motors, driving the purified air to an outlet worn in front of the user’s face. This design appears to be well-positioned for the face mask-wearing demographic looking for a “social firewall”, further amplified by the headphone aspect which blocks out external noise. The priority patent application is from the UK, and within the patent family, there are already applications for WO, GB and CN.
- CN105056424A – Zhejiang Xinli Ind Co Ltd
This patent discloses a wearable air purification device that also offers head protection for the wearer. This invention is likely for the target market of motorcyclists or other riders in highly congested areas where fumes from cars are polluting the surrounding environment.
- WO19119135A1 – Empowered Startups Ltd
This Canadian-originating patent is for a scarf-like garment that is designed to cover the wearer’s nose and mouth that delivers filtered air through an air channel. This invention serves the air purification purpose while simultaneously acting as a fashion accessory. The scarf design protects the wearer from external cold, making it an ideal accessory to prevent the spread of cases of flu in cold weather.
It seems that face mask-wearing may be becoming more globally widespread. Polluting vehicles still cause air quality decline and smog in large cities such as Delhi or Beijing or closer to Minesoft’s HQ, London. If the global spread of viruses becomes more concerning for global populations, the demand for wearable air purification devices may be expected to rise.
Recently the trend of wearing face masks as a fashion statement seems to be catching on with celebrities in the West. Artists such as Cardi B. and Billie Eilish have been photographed donning designer mouth and nose covering masks at high-profile fashion events namely Paris Fashion Week and the Grammy’s respectively.
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