A South Korean company has invented a battery-powered filtered face mask designed to reduce annoying problems associated with conventional designs, such as breathing difficulties and fogged-up glasses.
LG Electronics' PuriCare Wearable, which comes in one size and weighs as much as a pair of ski goggles, features two fans and high-efficiency particle air filters that clean air coming in and exhaled breath going out.
The announcement ahead of IFA 2020 doesn’t explicitly mention the COVID-19 pandemic, but it heavily implies that the mask was developed in response to it. The company says the wearable air purifier is designed to replace the “inconsistent” homemade masks worn by some people, as well as the disposable masks that it says have been in short supply.
Back in July, when LG first announced the mask and said it would be donating 2,000 of the devices to a university hospital in Seoul, one executive from the company said they hoped it would help medical staff “amid the protracting COVID-19 pandemic,” The Korea Herald reported. They hoped it would make it easier for medical staff to wear a mask for hours at a time.
It’s important to note, however, that LG’s press release doesn’t make any claims about the mask slowing the spread of the coronavirus, including whether it filters the air as you exhale as well as inhale. LG declined to comment to The Verge when we asked about this directly and said that it was waiting until certification and testing is complete to give full details. It’s an important distinction since masks are as much about preventing the wearer from infecting those around them as they are about helping to stop the wearer from being infected.
The USA’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends against the use of masks with exhalation valves or vents to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, since these don’t filter “expelled respiratory droplets” that could allow wearers to infect those nearby.
Since LG’s new mask uses motorized fans, it needs to be powered to work. LG says the PuriCare Wearable Air Purifier has an 820mAh battery that provides up to eight hours of use in its low-power mode, dropping to just two hours in high-power mode.
LG’s announcement doesn’t say exactly when the mask will release or how much it will cost, but notes that it will be available in the fourth quarter of this year in “select markets.”
As authorities increasingly urge the public use of face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, manufacturers have turned their attention to making such gear more comfortable without compromising safety.
Among problems mask wearers face are breathing difficulties and fogged-up glasses as the warm breath escapes from the top of the mask toward the eyes.
"Breathing is the biggest concern when it comes to wearing a face mask and disposable masks come with a huge environmental cost," Choi Yoon-hee, a senior official at LG Electronics' air solution product team, told Reuters.
The mask comes with a case that charges the battery and disinfects the mask with UV light.
The device will be available in the fourth quarter in select markets. LG is yet to set a price.
LG said the mask has a battery life of about eight hours on low-power settings and two hours on its highest setting.
he market of protective gear is booming and companies are increasingly becoming more innovative as they seek to capitalize on the growing opportunities. The global sale of disposable masks is set to increase to $166bn (Dh609.2bn) this year, from around $800 million in 2019, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
The global personal protective equipment market including masks, gowns, and gloves is expected to balloon to $93bn in 2027 from $52bn last year, according to data specialist Statista.
LG’s new mask comes with dual fans that allow users to take in clean and filtered air. They are fitted with patented respiratory sensors that detect the cycle and volume of the wearer’s breath and adjust the fan speed accordingly.
The fans automatically speed up to assist air intake and slow down to reduce resistance when exhaling to make breathing effortless, LG said.
“Designed based on extensive facial shape analysis, they fit snugly on the user’s face to minimize air leakage around the nose and chin. The design also makes it possible to wear the unit comfortably for hours on end,” it added.
They come with a lightweight 820 milliampere-hours battery that offers up to eight hours of operation in low mode and two hours on high.
The one-of-a-kind case can charge the mask and send notifications to Android and iOS mobile apps when filters need to be replaced.
All components of the PuriCare Wearable – from the filters to the ear straps – are replaceable and recyclable, according to the company.
Environmentalists have raised concerns about increased pollution as a result of disposable single-use masks. About 75 percent of used masks, as well as other pandemic-related waste, will end up in landfills, or floating in the seas. The UN Environment Programme estimates in addition to the environmental damage, the impact on tourism and fisheries is about $40bn.
Also a few days back LG Electronics has unveiled its vision of future home life at Europe's largest tech show showcasing its latest innovations that could be helpful in the new normal era of the pandemic.
Under the theme of "Life's Good from Home," LG Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Park Il-Pyung presented the vision that maximizes three core home values -- care, convenience, and entertainment -- at the company's press conference for Internationale Funkausstellung (IFA) 2020, reports Yonhap news agency.
"These unprecedented times have made us more uncertain about the future," said Park who took the stage in hologram form. LG believes this presents a unique opportunity to make real change in the world by realizing a new potential for the home."
At the conference, Park vowed that LG's Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform, LG ThinQ will continue to deliver innovative services and new business models to lead the change.
The LG ThinQ app will deliver a user-centric experience that extends from customer support to purchasing supplies, the company said. Last year, the company started the Proactive Customer Care (PCC) service with the app which analyzes the operational status of appliances and provides maintenance advice with AI technology.
It plans to more than double the number of appliances and service items compatible with the LG ThinQ app while introducing the care service to other markets, LG added.
"This pandemic has brought so many people to the online economy," Park said.
"To make real use of this opportunity we need to start thinking of all our devices and appliances as a connected platform."
Park also explained that LG's CLOi line of robots will provide a "safe, socially- distant way" to offer services in various sectors. LG CLOi ServeBots have already been deployed in commercial locations in South Korea since July.
The CTO emphasized that with the open-source Robot Operating System (ROS) 2, LG's CLOi line of robots could serve as "an efficient substitute for human interaction" as the company targets to expand the robot ecosystem.
Park revealed that LG is also developing technology for remote healthcare management, adding the company recently administered a pilot project with a Seoul hospital to enhance monitoring and care of patients with chronic conditions.
"Through AI, we can easily and more precisely monitor the health of consumers 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Park said.
Regarding its products to fight the virus, Park introduced LG PuriCare Wearable Air Purifier, a mask with air filter and light fans to assist breathing, and a smart thermal camera that can read temperature and identify people with face recognition using its AI technology.
Also at the conference, LG unveiled the LG ThinQ Home, an actual house that LG built-in Pangyo, south of Seoul to show its latest smart home solutions.
Park introduced LG ThinQ Home Concierge, a smart mirror that allows users to monitor conditions of home appliances and check home energy usage. The high-tech panel is also connected to the home's electric car charging station which enables homeowners to charge and monitor their electric cars remotely.
LG has not set up an offline exhibition area at this year's IFA in Berlin, Germany due to the novel coronavirus concerns. Instead, the company decided to open a 3D virtual exhibition booth and the LG ThinQ Home to showcase its latest products and technologies.