Pandemic-related gear was one of the biggest trends at CES 2021, with exhibitors showing off everything from health gadgets to air purifiers to disinfection devices. What really stood out were the high-tech and smart face masks on digital display.
Face masks have become an essential accessory, recommended by health officials to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. It was just a matter of time before companies found ways to layer tech solutions on them. These aren’t the simple cloth masks you see on the street or even N95s worn by healthcare workers. These models include sensors, microphones and more so you can make calls and even monitor the environment around you.
- Tom's Guide CES 2021 Awards: The best new products
Here’s a look at the best masks of CES 2021, what they offer and when you can get your hands (and face) on them.
Touted as the first “air wearable,” AirPop’s new smart mask is the culmination of five years of R&D by founder Chris Hosmer and team. The AirPop Active+ is embedded with the Halo sensor, which connects to an app on Android or iOS to monitor your respiration — think of it like sleep tracking, but for breathing. The app pulls in local air quality data, too, so you can see how many pollutants you’re inhaling.
The mask promotes maximum breathability with its special aerodrome design and “performance pores” on the washable knit outer shell. The replaceable inner filter features a silicone edge that seals to your face. And when the filter needs to be changed, the app will notify you. AirPop claims the Active+ is even more effective than N95 masks, blocking over 99% of particulates.
The AirPop Active+ will be available for $149.99 in February on the AirPop website and Amazon.
Winner, health tech, Tom's Guide CES 2021 Awards
Here’s the thing about wearing a mask: It can be well-designed, comfortable and protective, but it’s still going to muffle sound while you’re speaking. That’s what MaskFone wants to fix. It combines a mask with Bluetooth earbuds and microphone. The mask itself has adjustable ear loops, a nose bridge and pockets for disposable N95 filters, while the earbuds feature background noise isolation, IPX5 water resistance rating and 12 hours of battery life. Muffled phone calls will be a thing of the past. The MaskFone is available for $49.99 now on the Maskfone website and will be at Amazon and Target by the end of January.
Also exciting is the forthcoming MegaFone, which comes with a voice projector. Talk inside your mask and the small attachment will emit the sound to the outside.
LG PuriCare Wearable Air Purifier
LG first unveiled its new mask at IFA in late August, but the PuriCare Wearable got a spotlight at CES 2021 (and was an Innovation Award honoree). The PuriCare is essentially an individual air purifier fitted to your face. Two HEPA filters are built into the mask, which LG says works better than an N95 by capturing 99.97% of particulates as small as 0.3 microns in size. The wearable air purifier is rechargeable for up to eight hours of use and comes with a case that uses UV lights to sanitize the mask.
This thing is not discreet; wearing it, you’ll look a bit like Bane from The Dark Knight Rises. But it might be a while before you have that option, as LG hasn’t set a release date for the product in the U.S. It is available for $229 in parts of Asia.
Razer’s Project Hazel
Razer displayed a futuristic face mask concept at CES 2021, dubbed Project Hazel. It’s a reusable mask with a transparent plate, so you can actually see the person’s mouth. And the rechargeable air filters have programmable RGB highlights, which is very cool-looking. The mask also uses Razer VoiceAmp technology to make the wearer sound more clear while speaking.
As a concept, Project Hazel is intended to be more functional, durable and protective than everyday cloth masks. Whether this concept actually comes to fruition is the big question. And even if it is produced, the cost of a transparent, RGB mask might be too steep for most people.