The reach of technology these days is ever-expanding. We have smartphones, smartwatches, smart glasses, smart speakers, smart displays, smart homes, and more. And now, while the COVID-19 pandemic is still affecting several countries, we have a smart mask. Developed in Japan, Reuters reports that the mask connects wirelessly to the internet via a smartphone.
The smart mask was created by Japanese startup Donut Robotics and can disseminate messages and translate Japanese into eight different languages. The user places the plastic white "c-mask" over a regular face mask and connects to his or her phone using Bluetooth. Those wearing the mask can send texts, make calls, and raise the volume of the user's voice.
Donut Robotics came up with the idea out of desperation as the company needed a product to sell during the pandemic. The coronavirus outbreak resulted in the loss of an order for robot guides and translators from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport and the company is uncertain about future demand for these products. It took the firm just one month to develop a prototype mask and the design was created by Donut Robotics engineer Shunsuke Fujibayashi. The latter had developed the mask to help interpret speech by mapping face muscles. The money to create the product, equivalent to $260,000, came from the sale of Donut Robotics shares through crowdfunding site Fundinno.
Taisuke Ono, Donut Robotics' CEO said, "We worked hard for years to develop a robot and we have used that technology to create a product that responds to how the coronavirus has reshaped society." The smart mask is priced at approximately $40 and since this is a new product aimed at a new market, there are no rules that Ono and his firm can follow. One possibility that the firm is looking at is the sale of subscriber services through an app that users will need to install on their phones.
Starting in September, the first 5,000 masks are scheduled to be shipped to Japan. The company is looking to do business in the U.S., Europe, and China and says that there has been strong interest in the product.
Now that a smart mask is added to the list of all things "smart," what mundane product will receive a technological makeover next?