Bizarre sci-fi mask blasts purified air into your face all day
It looks like something straight out of dystopian sci-fi, but then here we are. Biotlab has presented a neck-mounted wearable that provides you with a range of magnetic face shields, and a personal supply of HEPA-filtered, UV-sterilized air.
The Air-Ring drapes around your neck, with the guts of the device at the back and battery arrays resting down your chest. It slips on and off easily, with twin adjustable arms rising up to frame your face.
Air is drawn into the unit at the back through a powered blower, which sucks it through a foam filter and a HEPA filter before sending it through a UV-C LED array and photocatalytic sterilizers, then pushes it up the adjustable arms through a final set of carbon filters. All this before blowing it directly into your mouth and nose area, allegedly free from viruses, pathogens and particulate matter. The battery lasts up to eight hours, and if you plug it in to a power bank in your jacket pocket, you can run it even longer.
A pair of LEDs in the arm tips helpfully light up your lower face in a range of colors, for no apparent reason other than making you look like you're wearing a Hollywood space helmet. If I was being totally honest, I'd begrudgingly admit this looks kinda cool in the pictures and videos; I can see these things being used in sci-fi stage performances. But I sure hope you can switch them off when it stops being fun getting stared at all day by regular earthlings. At least without the lights, you could try to play it off as some kind of dental device or a neck brace or something.
Magnetic buttons near the arm tips let you snap on and off a range of clear face screens, from a small, open mask for the nose and mouth, to a full-size open-face screen and a sealed lower-face mask – well, it's sealed as long as you actively press your face into it. One problem with this whole design is that if you move your neck back or turn your head, the mask stays exactly where it was. But hey, Darth Vader learned to look around by turning his whole body, so you can too.
Some of these face screens will magnetically snap onto the back of the unit if you want to pop them off and run the Air-Ring open, and just enjoy a stream of fresh air blowing in your face instead. If you really want to get crazy, the company seems willing to build this system into a full-sized hood that covers your entire head.
This ain't a COVID mask, or anything like the protection a N95-style medical mask offers. Indeed, as the Dyson Airblade shows, if you're sick and you walk around wearing one of these, it'll likely do a great job of launching any viruses and pathogens in your exhalations around the room with excellent efficiency.
Instead, this is something else entirely: a personal supply of fresh, filtered air blasted right into your face, all day long. And we can see it being very handy for a number of uses. You could whack one on to go out for a jog in a heavily polluted city – there are many areas monitored by the real-time World Air Quality Index showing air quality rated from "unhealthy for sensitive groups" through to flat-out "hazardous."
Plenty of people with allergies report that their irritation improves if they sleep in a room with an air purifier, or turn on "biohazard defense mode" in a Tesla. Plenty of people have to spend time in dusty spaces. And plenty of people, my office-mates at New Atlas included, frequently have to work around unpleasant smells. Apologies, fellas.
While the world moves toward a cleaner future, with carbon and particulate emissions in the cross-hairs due to climate change, there are still plenty of times when fresh air would be a pleasant change. And if you're willing to look like a 5th Element extra to get it, maybe this device is for you.
Biotlab says it's gearing up for an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to kick this thing off, but that's not live yet and there's no pricing information available, so aspiring Air-Ringers will have to wait.
In the meantime, whatever your thoughts on this device, you owe it to yourself to watch the video below, in which an extremely professional fashion model smoulders sexily through the weirdest gig in her career, mostly winning a monumental struggle against cracking a giggle without turning or nodding her head to expose the central weakness of this design. She's accompanied by one of the most excitable, gravelly-voiced, borderline sarcastic narrations we've had the pleasure of listening to. Truly a masterpiece.