The coronavirus pandemic has radically changed the way we live our lives and face masks has become infused into our daily existence.
While vaccinations are taking place across the globe and nations are hoping to come out of their various lockdowns and restrictions this year, face masks are likely to stay for some time to come as borders and travel start opening up and countries vastly differ on the rollout of vaccinations.
In April last year, global gaming giant Razer converted some of its manufacturing lines to produce masks and donated around 1 million of them to health authorities around the world. It also donated the proceeds from the sale of its ‘Stay Home and Game On’ posters to support the fight against COVID-19.
But following that, Razer decided to take it one step further and design, at least at the conceptual stage, a hi-tech face mask that is medically sound but also more tailored to make sure it evolves for the need of picking up on human interactive cues.
Project Hazel is Razer's hi-tech mask which has a transparent front cover to let people see your mouth and has a built-in microphone and speaker that can amplify your voice. It also has active air ventilation that's as effective as an N95 medical mask and has RGB lights (red-blue-green LEDs). It also intends to get rid of the issue of the annoying breath-fog when wearing a mask, especially when it's cold outside.
At first it was a high-end concept through its research and development department but Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan told Yahoo Finance on Wednesday that the company is now fully invested in turning these masks into a reality and will go into production.
"I'll take you through the thought process. When the pandemic first hit, the disposable mask was in huge demand and we had to figure out how we could get these out globally," said Tan.
He said that after setting up Singapore's first mask making facility "out of the blue" within 24 days, they had managed to roll out donations across the world. But he said "we realised the sustainability aspect" since disposable masks aren't the most sustainable.
Thinking beyond the pandemic, Tan said the group "took their time" with researching and developing the "very best mask."
"We were thinking, this is a concept project and is this going to be relevant when vaccinations and everything has been rolled out. I think moving forward we decided — and I can tell you now — we are going to proceed in making it a reality and ship the smart mask," he told Yahoo Finance.
"We've realised that even with vaccinations we are hearing you still have to be masked up because there is still the risk factor that even if you're vaccinated you still need to be incredibly careful. Secondly, there are also many countries that are unlikely that are going to get the whole [scale] of vaccinations in the next year or even two so travelling everyone should be very careful.
"So with that in mind, we are going to go ahead and solve the sustainable aspect of the mask which is one of the big things for us. Project Hazel is going to be a reality. We are going to make it happen and I think we will all will be, unfortunately, wearing masks for a long time to come."