A Top Gaming Company Is Working on a Supercharged Covid-19 Mask

Razer’s LED mask is a great concept piece, even if I’d never wear one

Image: rockpapershotgun

Face masks have become a daily wearable around the world, and even with vaccines, we’ll still be wearing them for a while. With that in mind, Razer, the acclaimed gaming peripherals brand, just announced what it’s calling the “world’s smartest mask,” a prototype of a gear-equipped face mask, named Project Hazel. According to Razer, this special mask is made from recycled plastic, is waterproof and scratch-resistant, and combines the latest anti-Covid technology with an unconventional design to enhance its usability and sustainability.

The prototype’s first value proposition is, of course, safety. It integrates detachable ventilators with a surgical N95 respirator. Razer claims the mask blocks at least 95% of airborne particles while maintaining regular airflow inside the mask.

Two circular modules close to your mouth filter Covid-19 and other common pathogenic particles when you inhale and exhale to support effective ventilation. Active ventilation is essential for maintaining an optimized temperature inside the mask. The ventilator filters are replaceable to help maintain the mask’s high filtration efficiency rating in the long-term.

Razer is also conceiving a dual-purpose case to include with each Project Hazel mask for fast wireless charging and auto-sterilization. Interior UV lightning kills viruses and bacteria inside the case, ensuring a complete self-disinfection process while charging.

Razer’s Project Hazel presentation on YouTube.

All the tech inside may make Project Hazel heavier than typical masks, but Razer says the thick, adjustable ear loops make the mask more comfortable, and silicone guards seal the mask around your face. If this is still isn’t enough for you, Razer offers custom-made possibilities to ensure the perfect fit for every face shape.

Razer is also developing a built-in microphone and a voice-amplification system to allow voice projection and avoid muffled speaking. The transparent design lets people clearly see your facial expressions and makes it easy to communicate with people who rely on lipreading. It even includes a set of built-in LED lights to automatically illuminate your face in dark settings. Plus, Razer attached its signature RGB Chroma LEDs to each circular module, and you can choose what color they glow.

We still don’t have an estimated price or release date despite Razer’s claim that Project Hazel is in the late development stages.

Given the opportunity, I’m still not sure I would buy this mask. The futuristic aesthetic and colorful lighting aren’t appealing to me, and I’m concerned that the ear bands won’t comfortably support the mask’s weight for a long time. However, as a UX engineer, I find myself inspired by the concept of the LED mask. Face masks have been designed to keep users safe in specific situations, but the worldwide pandemic has changed everything. Conventional masks weren’t designed to be used for long periods of time, in rainy weather, or in situations that require explicit communication. I may not agree with every design decision in Razer’s prototype, but I see the value in terms of user-experience innovation.

This being said, even if Razer’s Project Hazel never turns into more than a conceptual prototype, it will remain an interesting case study and has the potential to influence design decisions in our post-pandemic world.

UX Engineer | As seen in Debugger, ContentLab, Better Programming, UX Collective, UX Planet, The Startup, and more

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