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Transparent face masks let fans read lips

Solutions such as those developed by Vuzair, MicroClimate and ClearMask would allow hard-of-hearing fans to lip read masked-up performers

By IQ on 05 Oct 2020

Vuzair's transparent face mask, developed in cooperation with Pininfarina

Vuzair's transparent face mask, developed in cooperation with Pininfarina


A number of new face-covering concepts that would allow deaf concertgoers to read the lips of masked singers have come to market in recent months.

The jury is still out on whether singing increases the risk of spreading Covid-19, but requiring artists to wear masks has been suggested as a way of reducing transmission of the virus at live performances such as concerts and rehearsals.

While transparent face masks are primarily designed for conversations, they could also allow concert attendees to read the lips of artists who are wearing a face covering. Lip reading is one of the ways deaf fans experience live music, along with reading closed captions and feeling the vibrations.

One of the new solutions is Air, a Daft Punk-like clear helmet whose manufacturer, US firm MicroClimate, says filters out 99.7% of aerosol particles.

Targeted towards air travellers, Air seals around the neck, rather than the face, and contains a battery powered fan to ensure a continuous flow of fresh air to the wearer.

“There’s no reason why the solution can’t be elegant and attractive”

According to MicroClimate founder Michael Hall, the helmets’ “unique technology [make] it feel like there is nothing in front of you while you are wearing it. This makes the experience of wearing it very comfortable.”

Air is priced at US$199 and is available to order now, with the first deliveries starting in mid-October.

A more traditional transparent face covering is being produced by Vuzair (h/t MGB), a French start-up which partnered with renowned Italian design house Pininfarina to produce a ‘Covid shield mask’ which also has the backing of the French Interministerial Committee for Disability.

Vuzair’s shield also includes a fan to draw in fresh air and expel CO2 (charging is via USB), and the device can connect to smartphones so users can make calls without having to take it off.

It is designed to be comfortable enough to wear all day, with Vuzair suggesting its main use will be in “restricted and regulated areas that must meet disability requirements, as well as in shops, museums, concert halls, restaurants, educational settings, paramedical settings and individual and collective transportation”.

Apple and the NHS have ordered transparent face coverings from ClearMask

The mask is awaiting European certification, though designers hope to have the product branded and manufactured this year.

“The world is facing a serious health concern and innovative designs need to be incorporated into the global response,” says Silvio Angori, CEO of Pininfarina. “Our challenge is to make this equipment socially acceptable to ensure no one is excluded in this new world, and to quickly, but safely, revive the entire economy.

“Vuzair understood that health and safety need to be the primary concerns in any design of this type, of course, but there’s no reason why the solution can’t be elegant and attractive.”

Other solutions include Vyzr Technologies’ BioVyzr – similar to Air, but significantly larger, forming a seal around the wearer’s chest – and Covidisor, a larger, bubble-like helmet straight out of a ’50s science-fiction film.

But for those who don’t need a built-in fan or Italian design, a number of basic clear plastic mouth coverings are also available. Companies including Apple and the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) have ordered face coverings from ClearMask, a US company which in July received US Food and Drug Administration approval for the world’s first fully transparent surgical mask.

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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